Why is one teaching, one insight, one glimpse, one retreat, one conversation, one dose never enough?
Because we live in what the Buddhists call samsara. And here, there is duality, separateness, and this idea of a “me” over here and the “rest of the world” out there. And often, it’s me against the world. And there are some things I want out there. Things I like and things I don’t like. There is the delusion that if I can just obtain x, y, and z, (and arrange them just so), I will finally be happy.
Many of us have had glimpses when we see beyond this delusion. When we see that accumulating things and even people will never bring us lasting happiness (maybe because we managed to get the thing or the person and soon felt the longing creep back in).
Many of us have had a taste of freedom, when we slow down, are present and feel at peace with what is. When we let go of desire and grasping and relax into what is there.
But this contentment usually doesn’t last.
Despite the glimpses, we still live in this realm, where there is a deeply convincing appearance of separateness, or of a separate self, that is needy as hell, that is not whole, from which all our problems stem. Every flash of anger, every war, every sorrow and dissatisfaction.
What’s more, our modern Western individualistic, consumerist society reinforces this message to us all day long — it is drilled into us at every turn. You are not enough. You need something else. You need to act, do, buy, achieve, own, have, have more, have something different.
We know this is not true, but we forget. Unless we live in a monastery, or some bubble, we forget again and again. (Or we get tricked.)
I believe we need ritual, or repeated practice, to help us remember.
In an attempt to clear away superstition and irrational dogma, we have thrown away religion and with it we have lost some very valuable things. One of them is weekly, even daily ritual, to reconnect and realign, to remember and find clarity again and again.
For me, it might be a sitting meditation practice. For you, it might be something else. Listening to a piece of music, spending time alone in nature, or being of service to others. Whatever brings you back to truth.
We need to protect these moments fiercely and fortify their presence in the rhythm of our lives. This is the practical way to break free from the miserable slavery that is the constant striving for more and different.
We need to repeat these practices — yes, these rituals — until the song of truth sings so loudly in our hearts, it drowns out the delusions that lead us astray.