I remember when I was going through a messy divorce many, many, another-lifetime years ago. After the initial separation, I returned to what was once our shared home and dedicated every ounce of energy I had to the hustle. I progressed from room to room: painting, moving, fixing, anything-and-everything to change the space, to make it mine, to start over—again.
I filled every moment with busyness, but I felt lost and I felt alone. I had no idea what to do next, how to make ends meet, where to go, or how to move forward. I clearly remember standing in the office, my bare feet on the cold hardwood floor, looking out the window into the backyard, and talking on the phone with an old friend from New York. Her words still echo in my heart and ring so true today: you can either choose to live your life in faith or not. You can’t just do it when it’s convenient.
Her point? For as long as she’d known me, I’d lived in faith. Faith that there’s a greater order, that it was going to be and was, in fact, already okay. That despite any turbulent waters we might encounter, the flow of grace was, is, and will ever carry us along. We’d been friends for many seasons and walked through lots of changes: different jobs, different countries; times full of purpose and celebration and times of loss. And she is as right now as she was then.
There are times in life that feel full of possibility, hope, expectant anticipation. In these moments, faith is easy. We are already brimming with a sense of goodness, of belonging, of being in the flow. Even if we can’t see every step, somehow we just know that we are headed in the right direction and are surrounded with support. But what about the other, less hope-filled seasons?
Our challenge is to know that what is true once is true for all time– even when we can’t see it and don’t feel it in the moment. Right now, when we Americans look out into our troubled country with no view of how to get out of this collective mess in which we are so deeply mired. Right now when you and I, as individuals, look into our own lives with questions about what now, what next and how? Still it is true. So, how do we find faith when we don’t believe? How do we find our way when we are unable to see?
In Vedanta, there is a teaching called Shat Sampad– the six virtues. And one of those virtues, or things we need to cultivate as practitioners on the path, is shraddha. It means to have faith, infused with positivity, about the direction in which you are going. In this particular tradition, the practice of shraddha is three-fold: Faith in yourself; Faith in the practice and the teachings; Faith in the source of your guidance and solace. You are okay. You do belong. There is a path and you are on it. All is as it should be, and this life is a process of slow unfolding, not a series of non-stop destinations. Furthermore, the whole entire thing is gently and sacredly held by forces beyond our reckoning. Choosing this is choosing faith. Choosing this is surrendering into the unknown when (especially when!) the view outside or ahead is unclear, unpleasant or entirely obscured.
In whatever way you might find yourself spinning in the ever-troubled mind, take heart. I think that doubt, fear and longing are all part of the process. The way back is the practice of faith. And yes, it’s a practice, a choice, something we decide and then cultivate over and over. Instead of perseverating, catastrophizing, disasterbating, we can choose to be in the space of I-don’t-know and also breathe. We can rest in the center of fear or discomfort or even anguish and lean into a bigger knowing that in the right moment, when we are fully present and steady, the next right step will be revealed. And carried by grace, we will be offered the strength to take the step. And each time we do, we rise. All of us.
In faith and with great love,