Saturday, November 8, 2014

Returning to Center: What To Do When My Practice Derails

I have not been writing. I can feel the deep loss of this important part of my daily spiritual practice. Three weeks ago I started a temporary job in my chosen field, which will last until Christmas. I have been underemployed for a few years now, so the position was welcomed and it has proven to be an amazing opportunity. I work with people I respect and have support in learning my craft. The only caveat? A long (hour and half each direction) commute. Before this job, I would wake up early, go for a five mile run, and head to work. I would then come home, maybe another short run or yoga class. Now I am waking at 3:45am to run a quick two miles and leave my house by 5:30. The days are shortening and daylight savings time has begun. My schedule has been disrupted and I am experiencing intense exhaustion. Three hours a day in the car has begun to wear on me, and the resulting illness derailed the daily spiritual and physical practices which have kept me centered and, for the most part, serene. My job now is to get back on track, which includes taking a few moments a day to write. My problem is, that if I cannot do something completely, I do not even begin. So today I am here, with a cup of tea and the blank page. I do not have to write a novel, I just have to write a paragraph. Disruptions are part of life; we change jobs, go back to school, experience loss or fall sick. Getting back into the rhythm of routine is nearly impossible for me, but must be done before I succumb to the negativity that plagued my life years ago, before embarking on a spiritual journey.

As I write this post I am reminded of the opening lines of the Divine Comedy: Midway in the journey of our life / I came to myself in a dark wood / because the straight way was lost (Inferno 1, lines 1-3). Dante writes that it is the "journey of our life," not my life. First, I am not alone, we all get lost, off track, or derailed. But just because the straight path is lost to us, we are still someplace, even if it appears to be dark. It might just be that the straight way is not the path I should be walking, and I need to get lost for a bit, in order to focus on my surroundings. What has the past three weeks taught me? First: I adore teaching and I adore teaching teenagers. Second: I am wrapped so tight in my habits and routines that any time I stray from the path, I lose serenity. I am not well practiced in the art of navigating through change. In the Comedy, Dante, after finding himself in the dark wood, continues on, even though he did not know how he had gotten to that place. He takes a rest, and continues on the path, although he is ultimately thwarted by three vicious creatures. It is only when he accepts the help and guidance of Virgil, that he is able to continue. Albeit he continues on a different journey, one that will result in the writing of one of the most important pieces of literature.

What can I learn from my favorite writer? Certain daily practices may have been derailed, and it may seem a wee bit bleak, but if I reach out and accept the help and guidance of others, I might be able to find a different way. I know that in the past when I was trying to figure out how to juggle my undergraduate work with commuting and raising a child, I only had to ask for help and my schedule smoothed out. The first step in resolving this unrest, is to ask for Divine guidance. Breathe in, breathe out, pray, take a nap, and begin again. My one paragraph has become three, and I already feel as if I am returning back to my Self.