When practice goes backwards


U-bend in road

I’ve not been feeling very well the last couple months. I feel tired and achy a lot of the time. When I meditate, I catch myself dozing off before too long. My concentration is off. I’m finding it especially difficult to write. I can’t put it into words, but something is just not right.

A couple weeks ago, my preceptor (the woman who ordained me) came to visit for several days. She had some helpful and encouraging words to say about this, and I thought I’d pass them on.

Sometimes when we have particularly deep and intense experiences, as I did on my retreat last July, we need some time afterward to assimilate. Sure, it’s only natural for the wonderful positivity of a peak experience to fade away. But she said it’s also not unusual for some part of us to resist afterwards. Or maybe just feel unsteady from all the inner rearranging that’s taken place. And it can feel like a step or two backwards, a regression.

That feels right to me. I have an image of me as a big elastic band. I stretched beyond my usual way of being, and now I’ve sprung back some. And to mix metaphors, it’s like my body and mind are working really hard to find their footing on this new ground they find themselves on.

Something inside me said “yes!” when she said that. There was relief in seeing this as a perfectly natural process. That given time, things will find their balance again.

I’ve long since given up on grieving over peak experiences. They were the result of a particular set of conducive conditions that will never be again. I can’t recreate them, and it’s pointless to wish for it. And I don’t begrudge the inevitable doldrums that come afterwards. What I’m going through now is also a result of the conditions that are in place. I’ve learned to trust in this natural flow of things.

And really, I don’t think my practice is going backwards at all, despite what I titled this post. This IS my practice. Learning how to move forward through unknown territory. Getting to know when to push ahead and when to rest. (And it seems now is a time for me to rest!) Finding out how to navigate similar roadblocks when they appear again next time. To be honest, I can’t imagine anything I go through is ever lost. Something stays with me and comes to fruition later, in some unpredictable way.

This is how I’ve gotten to where I am now. And I’m just going to keep moving forward. Because really, there’s no such thing as moving backwards.

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4 Comments. Leave new

  • Things are always changing, in a state of flux, and this includes our emotions, I’ve often felt this way, first on a high and then on a low and this, to a certain extent, seems to explain some of these times for me as well, thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Sunada, thanks for this: I too experience doldrums after peak experiences and like you, have learnt that these are inevitable. Still I don’t find them exactly ‘nice’ but at least they don’t take me by surprise any more. And I guess you’re right and there’s no such thing as moving backwards, or to put it another way, the expression ‘moving backwards’ is not an adequate one to describe the complexity of the experience.

    • Thanks Mandy. You put it very well — it’s a very complex process and we can never really know for sure what’s going on. But things always ebb and flow, and keep changing and growing. I always come out the other side with something to take away from it all.

  • I still begrudge my low moments. I try to recollect that I can learn in pain… I’ve been UP and DOWN for 3 years and I’m getting fed up with it. That’s where i stand right now after 5 years of meditation.


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