Sometimes you don’t get to be a Buddha.
Sometimes you just have to break. And feel.
You have to lose your precious ‘spiritual awakening’.
You just have to be a human being, feeling.
Sometimes old pain resurfaces. Old fear. Sorrow. Trauma.
The searing ache of the abandoned child.
The rage of a forgotten universe.
And suddenly, all of your spiritual insights crumble, all the beautiful spiritual words by the beautiful spiritual teachers, all the concepts and ideas about awakening and enlightenment, and the pure perfection of pure untainted awareness, and the selfless non-self self, and the path to glorious futures, and the wise guru, they suddenly are all meaningless, empty words, second-hand drivel, and dead to you.
What’s real, now, and alive, is the burning in the belly, the fire in the heart.
Unavoidable. Intense. So close. So present.
Sometimes you just have to feel. You have no choice.
And sense your feet on the ground.
And breathe into the discomfort.
And trust, and maybe trust that you cannot trust right now.
And take it moment by moment, by moment, by moment.
And know that nothing is working against you.
And awaken from your dream of how this moment ‘should’ be.
And throw away all your second-hand ideas about the path.
Sometimes your spirituality has to shatter,
so you can finally realise
this deeper spirituality
of feeling, presence, and feet-on-ground living,
and the sound of the birds singing in the distance,
and a total surrender to this one precious moment.
by Jeff Foster
I am not sure if this poem comes from writer and spiritual teacher Jeff Foster’s first book of poetry entitled You Were Never Broken, but I do know that book has been highly recommended to me by two friends who both sang its praises as direct, loving, and opening the door to that kind space which is always waiting with open arms.
I feel grateful to him for giving words to the process of ‘shattering’ in this poem, the reassuring humanity, hope, and powerful humbleness that speaks through it. My early image of this path of growing awareness and compassion was that it would be one of ascend, of more and more of the brightness and the light that I tasted in my early years of meditation. Until of course I ran into a painful but fertile period of falling apart, of disillusion and disappointment… and when that wasn’t the end but in a way only the beginning of this journey, my trust in the times that I ‘cannot trust right now’ has been growing.
Jeff’s website reveals that he’s going through a process of profound shattering in the form of chronic neurological Lyme disease, a process he occasionally shares a glimpse into. My heart, which knows of shattering, goes out to him and others in that space. May each and everyone of us be well…
PS Luckily there are many ways we can support ourselves in difficult times like what this poem speaks of. Practising together with others can be a profound and maybe surprising support – if you’d like to try it out, there are daily free practice sessions on zoom which you’re welcome to join!