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You Can Always Come Back

Perhaps you've taken a day off from your meditation practice. Perhaps it became a week and stretched over months. Perhaps you've fallen off the cushion.

You're allowed to forgive yourself. There is a lot to be distracted by, more all the time. You're allowed to forgive yourself for not being able to forgive yourself. It is easy to quanitfy and grade yourself and to feel badly when you don't believe you're the best. It is quite hard to think otherwise.

Perhaps you've followed a thought and embarked on a strange, beautiful, painful journey. You may have left your practice to dig into the stuff of life, to take admirable risks and reap the rewards and the whirlwind. You may have collected uproarious anecdotes and encountered great suffering as you discovered that some victories don't mean what you wanted them to mean, some losses are irreversible, and sometimes people get gruesomely injured. Sometimes it's someone else and sometimes that's much worse.

When resuming your meditation practice, you may at first be frightened that this place will not be the way that you left it. It probably won't.

In the two decades in which I haven't visited, the small waterside community in which I grew up has been aggressively developed. Knowing this, I am reluctant to go back. I want to preserve it the way it was in my narrative and I'm not sure if seeing what it has become is worth it. The place that remains in my narrative no longer exists and seeing what is there now isn't important to me. After long breaks, I sometimes feel the same way about my meditation practice. What's the point of returning if it's not exactly what I had in mind?

That susupicion is accurate, but the sacrifice is well worth it. That sacrifice is the point. To paraphrase John Tarrant, it is learning to say goodbye as well as hello, and to let love flow through fear.

Returning to your practice isn't like riding a bike, or even building a sand castle. It's like seeing and hearing and smelling as a sand castle is washed away, feeling the wet sand run through your fingertips, and knowing what can't be communicated because it is so deeply shared. To notice the impermanent won't make it stay put, but it may allow you to really love it. Maybe for the first time. Maybe for the first time in a long time. That no-place place is the only place that is truly always there.

It won't be the way you remembered it. It won't be what you expected. But you can always come back.

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