It can go goes like this. You sneak some overdue down time in a pastoral setting away from the rat race and move deep into your practice morning and night. Soon, you're homeward bound — renewed and inspired to commit to sustaining this healthy momentum. Because why not feel this heavenly all of the time or at least more of the time?
Or maybe you floated out of a yoga class on a cloud, oozing with optimism because the movement and the meditation were precisely what your ornery shoulder and grumpy spirit needed. The teacher must have had advance, specific insight about your body aches and flagging spirit because the class was customized to tackle the sorry state you were in.
Motivated and inspired, you vow to do more yoga and meditation. There might be whispered pledges about making your own kombucha, dusting off that gratitude journal, and adding uncooked kale to your diet.
This is all clear in your mind. You've got the tools and a solid plan. Until your equanimity flies out the window faster than a cheetah on roller skates when the basement floods. Or someone you love gets a foreboding diagnosis. Or there's a headline about your Congressman auctioning off your favorite national park to the highest bidder. Of what enduring good is this practice if the benefits are so fleeting and fragile? Vulnerable to faulty pipes, MRI results, sinkholes, tick bites, daft Tweets, pinheads, and bunions?
If you're waiting for me to insert a meme-worthy peppy spiritual answer, you may want to get busy fermenting your kombucha first. I'm still working out how to reconcile my own devotion to the practice with the reality of how messy life gets when we land hard after slip-sliding on some spiritual banana peel or someone ties our shoelaces together when we've dozed off.
Even when I'm teaching, more and more I'm reluctant to answer questions with confidence. Whether they're about “correct" alignment or how to thwart anxiety. Maybe because after spending time with this practice, I see that my best teachers did nothing more, and nothing less, than provoke my own inquiry. They're clear that they're still working it out too. I've got some compelling clues, sure, and some strategies and tools that work reliably for many.
In the end, any movement or mindfulness technique is an experiment, an open-ended question. Maybe the best we can do for ourselves — and suggest for our brethren — is to keep asking questions. And steer our efforts toward tidying our own inner landscape with the counsel and help of divine intelligence's pit crew. What if we dropped the conviction that changes in the outer landscape were a pre-requisite for inner composure? What if waiting for "the situation to improve" turns out to be ego's cunning delay tactic?