We do not enter our inner wilderness areas all at once. We cannot get to know the nature of our minds on a day-trip.
As we begin to practice we might at first simply enjoy a peaceful respite from our tendencies to create suffering for ourselves. We might notice a little more calmness in our lives. We might notice that we lose our tempers less often. We might start to notice that someone we used to regard as being decidedly irritable is now behaving more decently towards us.
Later, we might begin to have important insights into our lives. It’s as if we’ve been climbing a steep path, seeing little but the dirt in front of us, and then we turn round and find ourselves awestruck by the new perspectives open to us. When we have such insights we find that we change quite rapidly, and old and restrictive habits start to drop away.
Around the same time, we may find that we enter states of mind that were previously unknown to us. One day, sitting meditating, we find we’ve slipped into a state of quiet bliss, where there is a complete absence of inner tension, and where our minds have mysteriously stopped chasing after things that were obsessively compelling just a few moments ago. There’s a feeling of lightness and clarity, and rightness – as if we’ve come home.
And eventually, or so the sages tell us, we’ll learn to be utterly comfortable with discomfort, we’ll be able to accept the uncertain nature of the universe as a gift. We’ll have explored the fiercest and most frightening aspects of our own inner wilderness, and will have discovered that there never was anything to fear. We’ll rejoice in the openness of existence and feel an overwhelming sense of compassion for those who run around like rats in a maze.
We’ll be living completely and congruently from the depth of our insight, and helping others will be our play. In this way we’ll have come, stage by stage, exploration by exploration, to know ourselves more completely.