SPIRITUAL PRACTICE AND BETRAYAL - AN UNEXPECTED SOLILOQUY

[Nobody could be more surprised by this, than I was when, abruptly, it wrote itself. Looking back on it now, its roots are plain enough.]

A lone voice asking, is there anybody out there? Well, who knows....

Am I out here? Well, maybe.

I am deeply mystified about my own practice; about what it means to have a practice; about how it connects on the one hand to certain concepts about the world; and on the other to certain belongings within different groups of people.

There are some funny inarticulate questions about integrity, about motive, about (I was going to say) "betrayal". Now there's an odd word.

Does it betray the people with whom I practise, if my understanding of the meaning of a common practice is sharply different from theirs? At what point would I have to ask seriously, is this a breach of trust?

Does it betray the practice itself, if at times I have no idea why I continue? if I continue at other times because these are my people and I love them? if at yet further times I continue because I am consoled by the repetitive, rhythmic nature of practice?

Does it betray the whole project of the spiritual life, if at times my responsibilities to other people are set aside, so that I can make time for the formal demands of the practice?

Does it matter, if the tradition in which I am practising is full of teachings and beliefs, some of which strike me as largely unintelligible? others of which strike me as objectionable or puzzling?

Then again, this practice came upon me out of the blue, all unexpectedly, like grace. That in itself seems to be something.

And I can say this without hesitation: that I love this "form of life" unfeignedly and without reserve.

Is that all that matters? at certain times, and under certain conditions? and particularly now....?

Are we live? - you ask. If this is live, well, I guess so.... maybe....

8th April 2003

Top of this page
Poems and Essays index
Home