23.50: What You Practice Is What You Have, Revisited

This article is reprinted from the June 2014 Monastery Newsletter

Imagine that for as long as you can remember you have wanted to live in Spain or France or Italy or Japan or China or…. You’ve never known why, probably a karmic thing, but you’ve just always been drawn there. You love the language, the culture, the food…. And, you don’t want just to visit for a couple of weeks, you want to live there, immerse yourself in the society, be like a native.

You realize you’ll need to be fluent in the language. You can’t be a part of a culture if all you can do is ask where the bathroom is or say “How are you?” and then be stuck when the person decides to tell you!

So you get the language program and excitedly begin practicing. But your excitement quickly turns to frustration as busy days get in the way of the focus you want to give to your practice. All you can manage is a few minutes in the morning and before bed. Before long you miss a couple of days, then several days, and then you forget altogether. And the narrative becomes “one more thing you failed to follow through with.” Can you picture it?

Here’s the piece egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate really doesn’t want us to get: It’s never going to work to become fluent in a foreign language by practicing it a few minutes a day. And the same is true with Recording and Listening. It is not possible to live in the negative, artificial conversation within conditioned mind 24 hours a day, waking and sleeping, and then give 10 minutes or an hour to Life as it really is and get the desired results.

That’s why the voices of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate work so hard to convince us that “you’re too busy, there isn’t time, you can do it later.” But here’s the thing to consider: People are able to do the things they do with a constant, droning, yammering stream of useless nonsense going on in their heads. Why would it not be equally possible to do everything with a kind, compassionate, supportive conversation going on inside the head?

Yep, you’re right, it’s not only possible to live in a world of lovingkindness—the world as it actually is—living there results in ease, comfort, efficiency, and effectiveness impossible to imagine while caught in the complaining, comparing, judging world of conditioned mind.

Bottom line: If we want the life that’s possible for us, we need to turn things as upside down (or as right side up) as we can. Rather than 23 hours and 50 minutes spent in the imaginary world of egocentric karmic conditioning/self-hate and 10 minutes for the Mentor, Life, and Recording and Listening, we need to spend 23 hours and 50 minutes in the authentic reality of Life and 10 minutes in the faux reality of ego-identity maintenance. Giving it those 10 minutes will keep us in gratitude for having left that suffering behind and will inspire us never to go back.