The roast and pan story:
In a family where tradition has always been a very big part of their lives, the holidays arrived, making tradition even more important.
It was time for the traditional roast dinner. The mother prepared the roast carefully according to the family tradition, as her mother had, and her mother’s mother had. She carefully and lovingly cut off both ends of the roast before putting it in the roasting pan. The youngest daughter asked why she cut off the ends of the roast. The mother said that they always made the roast that way, it was tradition. The mother’s sister said they always made the roast that way because cutting the ends off made the meat more tender. The tradition versus tenderness discussion started to escalate and became louder in volume and harsher in tone. The grandmother came in to see what the commotion was. Both the mother and her sister asked Grandmother, is it tradition or meat tenderness that was the reason for cutting off the ends of the roast. The grandmother said, “My mother always cut off the ends of the roast. I never asked why, because it was always so tasty, it just had to be the right way to do it”. The youngest daughter, who had asked the question in the first place and was listening to all of this said; “Well, why don’t we just ask Great-Grandmother why she cut the ends of the roast off?” So, grandmother, mother, aunt and daughter all went together to the den where Great-Grandmother was sitting and knitting. They asked her; “Why did you cut the ends of the roast off before cooking? Is it the tradition of our people, does it make it more tender, why?” The Great-grandmother looked up and said; “The roast was too big for the one pan I had, so I cut off the ends so it would fit.”
Sometimes in our practice, we can become attached to how we first started practicing and can become absolutely certain of it, even after years have gone and memories blur a bit. We can romanticize our practice, forgetting the struggle and focusing only on pleasurable sensations and feelings. But the pleasurable is not always the beneficial.
Our practice supports our growth and being, not the other way around. Our practice changes, sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly, to support and encourage our growth. It might not seem so dazzling but it might be exactly what we need.
Take the apple tree. Apple blossoms so beautiful and fragrant that your fingertips ache with tenderness. Then the blossoms fall, the tree is then green with leaves, then comes the fruit, the fruit is less flashy than the blossoms but more nourishing.
Sometimes our practice shifts into another direction and we may feel we’ve lost “that lovin feeling”, the power and strength of our practice. But it is what we need most at that time. After focusing mainly on chanting, suddenly, chanting seems dry. We continue to chant, but start to feel badly, missing the initial excitement. As we consider where we went wrong (!), we find ourselves drawn to meditation on The Precepts. The Precepts suddenly become more alive for us than ever before. We start to see everything in the light of The Precepts, wondering how we could have missed this earlier. Or we are suddenly drawn inward to meditation when before we couldn’t sit still without fidgeting. What happened? What happened is that our practice changed to support us in our growth and change. If we worry about why we are being drawn to practicing a bit differently, we’ll miss the beauty of the now, the present, and possibly, new growth and a new depth in our practice.
There is room for tradition and change in our practice.
Kris is a Reiki practitioner at Wildlife Works, a volunteer-based, non-profit organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of distressed wildlife and the promotion of responsible attitudes about the preservation of native species, habitat, and the environment. For more information: http://wildlifeworksinc.org/home