A student writes:
Although I never completely put down the practice, it seems to wax and wane like the moon. At times, I am very much into practice and study and at other times it seems other things that are part of my life seem to take the forefront.
Yes that is a good way of putting it – things come into the foreground and pass back into the background – but they don’t go away – everything is like this.
So it’s a matter of keeping the Dharma as a really strong background presence in whatever you are doing and by calling it into the foreground as often as possible you strengthen that sense of its presence in the background.
Then it’s a matter of developing confidence and trust in that, whatever is happening in the foreground.
If one wants to deepen one’s practice does that entail giving more of my life over to practice and study, perhaps by engaging in other practices and attending retreat there at the Sangha?
It mainly means gaining deeper conviction and trust in the practice and that arises from deepening understanding and insight and trust in the practice. Other practices might or might not help.
You don’t have to worry if you feel satisfied that the practice you do now is enough. It is good to study a bit in order to strengthen your practice and it’s good to take good advice on what you study.
Attending retreats here with the Awakened Heart Sangha is the best way to build a strong personal connection with me and the other students and having done that once or twice the effect lasts – you feel the connection even if you are not here.
But if coming to the Hermitage for retreat is not possible – well go with what is possible. You can do retreat at home and let me and other sangha people know – or you can link up with one or two students to keep in contact, perhaps at full moon.
Some students connect from a distance and the sangha is their lifeline even after years and years, so it is possible.
Does deepening my practice entail putting enlightenment at the centre of my personal mandala?
Yes – why not? What is more important?
Everything else will fade in time and you will lose it anyway whether you put enlightenment at the centre or not. But putting enlightenment at the centre can be about practising here and now and making whatever you do part of your path to Awakening.
Why not aim for that?