|Photo courtesy of Marjon Hollander|
No matter how far you have gone down the wrong road, turn back!
~ Turkish proverb
Twice in the past week, dharma friends have told me they are making changes in their lives partly because of reading this blog. The first time it happened, I was humbled; the second time was like being hit by a sandbag. Perhaps I was overreacting, but I got choked up and mildly terrified at the same time.
The idea of returning home as an aspect of practice had been percolating on the back burner for a while. Last week just pushed it to the front.
I think of it as coming back to a path or a state from which we have strayed. Not that straying is necessarily bad - we are the sum total of our strayings, and a little wiser for each one.
Returning home can range between a minor course correction, as in mindfulness practice or zazen when we return to the the present from a daydream, and a 180 degree life-changing about face.
The variations are endless. Here are a few that occurred to me, in no particular order:
- walking past someone in distress, then going back to help
- saying "I'm sorry"
- letting go of a grudge
- forgiving a debt
- doing or saying something kind that you have been putting off, no matter how belated it is
- returning something you stole
- forgiving yourself, no matter what you did
- quitting smoking
- allowing yourself to cry
- deciding to eat a healthy or ethical diet
- cuddling after a fight
- coming out
- deciding to watch TV, then changing your mind and going for a walk
- picking up litter you dropped
- going into rehab or an AA meeting
- sitting down to meditate after deciding to go to bed
- asking for help when you don't want to
Each time, our two old friends, the fruits of practice: wisdom and compassion, seem to play a part. Wisdom to realize we have strayed, and compassion to motivate us with the courage to make the change.
The distance we go down wrong roads varies. There is a saying in recovery circles that some people realize they are riding on a garbage truck, figure out where it's going, and jump off, while others ride it all the way to the end. I suspect that as our practices progress, the distances we tend to stray before returning will become shorter, and more and more, we will see a road leading the wrong way, and just pass it up.
I'm avoiding Zen questions like "are we not home already?" or venturing into places where words don't belong, but I do have a question:
So long as one sentient being is suffering, can we ever truly be home?