So lately, I am feeling as though this is a midterm exam for me. Time to check-in and be tested.
And based on my fifty-six years of age, you might think this means the half way point in my life. But I highly doubt I will live to be a hundred and twelve. Then again, who knows right?
For me, this midterm is more about the middle of my path and the testing of my current practice. How is my resolve, my faith (saddha), my determination, my peace. Have I gotten too deep in the dhamma forest to be able to see the tress? Or am I now only just beginning to scratch the surface? What’s my grade?
Well, to begin with, I see that I have learned a lot of the Buddha’s teachings and applied them in my life. I can see a profound and positive impact on the self and those around me. But I also see that I often falter in always living the truths that I have learned. I find there is a great disparity between the knowledge and the application.
At times, even the simple practice of returning to my breath seems arduous and impossible. And it is at those times that I question how well I am doing in awakening to the truth of this existence.
You see, understanding impermanence, desire, attachment etc., does not dissolve those obstacles. These are each like poisons in our mind, and the antidote does not always work quickly enough. Hence I struggle, push and pull, in a futile attempt at peace and happiness.
In a recent discussion with Bhante Sanyatha, he explained to me that sometimes understanding comes in an instant. Like the blink of an eye, or a snap of your fingers, small awakenings can happen. And perhaps enlightenment is a culmination of many of these instances occurring over time. Presented with the same information and knowledge, it is unlikely that any two people will have this “aha!” moment. It is completely different for each one of us. And I have no idea what causes any of these epiphanies to occur.
Over the past thirteen years or so of my practice, I have had many of these moments. Changing my brain little by little. But I can see more clearly than ever that I have accumulated a lot of garbage over the past fifty years, and perhaps karmic garbage from a previous lifetime as well. So patience (khanti) is really a Noble virtue for me to practice as I proceed.
And where does all of this put me as far as a midterm grade?
I would compassionately give myself a C+ I believe.
And I’m happy with that. As the more I learn, the more I see that this is not the easy path, but one with so many challenges. And my grade affirms that I am not doing too badly, but happily still have a lot of room for improvement.
May you be free of suffering and all causes of suffering.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.