awakened af : how to

long-time-gone: thoughts on falling out of love with your spiritual path

“Me, I heard a different song… I hit the road… and boy, I been a long time gone.” ~The Dixie Chicks, Home

One of the first lessons I learned in walking this path of Practical Buddhism is that everything is in a continual state of change. Our bodies, our minds, our feeling, thoughts, and emotions are in continual flux. It’s part of our human experience. Nothing stays the same…ever.

One can’t escape this feeling of being in the vortex of change every now and then. It’s inevitable and it happens to us all at times. It’s like one day we’re fervent in our practice and the next we’re waning like an Autumn moon.

When this occurs in my life, I encounter periods of falling out of love with my path. It’s insidious and at first, I stop meditating for any number of reasons.  I start rationalizing the lack of practice and then I feel my sense of compassion fall away. When that happens I feel guilty, I’m harder toward others, and I return to less than best version of myself…and then…

Then I’m a long-time-gone.

It can happen to anyone

Falling out of love can happen to anyone and it can happen in many areas of our lives including relationships, interests, careers, and even out spiritual or creative practices. I have a dear friend who recently attended a week-long seminar in Santa Fe, New Mexico on the topic of Madness and the Artist. She came back “splayed open” to use her exact words. She told me that she felt she’d been away from the deeper side of her creative and spiritual life for too long.

Like my friend who traveled to Santa Fe only to get reacquainted with her truer self, I have returned to my Buddha nature, taking up meditation on a daily basis, the practiceof  moment-by-moment mindfulness, and exercising compassionate-kindness. It does indeed feel as if I’ve been a long-time-gone.

Why it’s important to return

A few years ago I attended a funeral for a friend of a friend. I’d only met Alex a few times, but it didn’t stop me from feeling profound sadness about his passing, especially when his two deaf, adult and very accomplished sons (whom my friend had taught to speak more than 20 years ago) shared their tributes to their dad.

The tears flowed incessantly then, not because it reminded me of my own dying father, but instead I was consumed with how my own passing would affect my children and the sadness they will feel; it was very clear to me at that moment that I was weeping for them.

Even now, as I write these words, I feel the same level of emotion. It became very clear that it was critically important to return to my path because life is far too short not to continually awaken and do what matters most to me.

The fleeting nature of life is as transitory as a rose that buds, blooms, and withers.

Life is far too short not to awaken

The fleeting nature of life is the very reason we need to get serious about awakening. Like the transitory nature of a beautiful rose in full bloom, we too have a fleeting one-time opportunity to bloom before we die. Some of us get a second chance when we realize we’ve been a long-time-gone.

If you’ve been in this space of feeling like you’ve fallen out of love with your path, you’re not alone. If the author of a book on Practical Buddhism can fall out of love with his path and find his way back again, there is hope for you, too.

Forgiving myself and moving forward in grace

Forgiving myself for my falling away was essential. When I came to this point where I realized that I needed to return to my practice a few weeks ago, the first action I had to take was to forgive myself for falling away, for being human It’s peculiar that we humans beat ourselves up when realizing our inherent failings.

I acknowledged my humanity, attributed it to yet another experience I can learn from and sat in silence for a few minutes. That’s all it took to feel myself returning to the path. I meditated and reflected on my long-time-gone, and, instead of feeling guilt, felt human…just like the Buddha.