What to watch for:
* Depression, lethargy, and a general feeling of tiredness
* Great ambition being met with the bitter reality of limitations, hardships, obligations, or responsibilities
* Healthy vs. unhealthy father figures or authorities
* The balance between firm boundaries and gentleness
* The attempt to deny or avoid the reality of doubt, hurt, pain, fears, or shadows
* The desire to revel in pain, doubt, hurt, fears, or cynicism, as though all light is false, insincere, or untrue
* Feeling hopelessly flawed, limited, or inadequate
* Working to refine one’s craft, skills, knowledge, or abilities by taking notes or constructive criticism from an elder, mentor, or senior
* One’s ego being put in check by the “reality” of the situation
* The pain of being forcefully separated from someone or something that you love
* Overly rigid or austere systems of learning
* A magnum opus, a period of extraordinary productivity
* The diamond that forms under pressure
One of the main reasons we turn away from spiritual life, that we give up before we begin, or that we quit even after we’ve seen how beneficial a spiritual path can be, is that we don’t make room for darkness, tiredness, depression, exhaustion, fear, and doubts within ourselves. We mistakenly believe that spiritual life means positive, happy, and materially successful. We mistakenly believe that spiritual life is a Calvin Klein advertisement combined with a yoga pose or a photograph of our healthy, homemade meal on Instagram. Or, just as bad, we believe that our self-effacing and sarcastic dismissal of spiritual values in favor of the “dark Grit” of life makes us “real.” The truth is that spiritual life must move us in and through the dualities of happiness and sadness, realism and idealism, in order to go beyond them. We’re looking for a joy that is brimming with secret pain and a pain that is filled with secret joy. We can’t find it unless we try.
Prayer: Teach us to at least try. So that we may find you, at last, in the least.