“Fatigue makes cowards of us all.”
I was watching tv last night and heard someone paraphrase the quote above by football great, Vince Lombardi. It got me thinking a bit about “burning out” a la practice fatigue. It can strike anyone, anytime.
It doesn’t matter if you are a n00b or an advanced practitioner, we all get to a point where we just need to have a break, to step away and contemplate what we’ve been contemplating, you know? We sometimes need to reflect on our lives, on this life that we are presently creating and what good it is serving us and others.
Every day we go about it the same way. This is our morning, this is our job, this is our home, this is our practice, this is our bedtime, wash, rinse, repeat… Yes, I understand, for the most part, that it is great to have such a practice, a schedule to go by. But sometimes it feels rigid, like it is confining us into a small box.
For me, the need to switch things up a bit is in order more often than not. To reek havoc on the same old stuff.
A long time ago I was big into working out, lifted weights like they were going out of style, and one thing I remember is I always had to switch up my work-outs. The muscles in my body, and I’m sure this happens to others, got accustomed to the same routine, they hit a plateau and it drove me nuts at first.
So I switched up everything! My muscles responded me with deep discomfort, which told me I had broken the plateau and was having good work-outs again. I think our minds need this as well, and we hit a similar plateau in our practice more often than we like.
Take a break!
Sit back, not on the cushion, and look at what you are doing and would like to do. Are your goals still the same? Is this practice accomplishing what you had hoped? If you have a teacher, are they still challenging you?
It’s ok to question things. As a matter of fact, I am paraphrasing here of course, Buddha himself said to question the things we are unsure of, and to never put blind faith ahead of rationality. Nothing is set in stone, everything is impermanent, even our practice.
As the quote at the beginning says, fatigue creates cowardice, and this may not be solid but it is true to an extent. When we are burnt out, we question things from an irrational point of view. Instead of asking questions about how we can achieve our goals, we waver and wonder if they were ever possible in the first place. And maybe that’s a good thing, because we might have set the bar to high. But at the same time, we may lose our, for lack of a better word, faith in the Dharma. I don’t think it’s the Dharma that has lost it’s “glow”, it is us that have lost sight of the light the Dharma provides.
So don’t fret one second, roll with the punches and keep on keeping on. The key is to not let ourselves get to that burnt out stage, that way we are able to reflect in a rational manner. The one thing that is constant is the fact the Dharma will be right here once you’ve got your stuff figured out, so there is no time like now to reflect, rejuvenate and get back on course.