At the beginning of September, sitting with my dharma brother, Vincent Horn, I completed the 100-day practice vow I set forth in May. I was able to do so in large part thanks to my teacher, Hokai Sobol, who both encouraged me to take the vow and helped me in so many ways through out. I’ve had the intention of writing this post, sharing with you some of my experiences, and it’s long overdue. I also have a few other posts I started during the 100 days that I’ll follow up with after this post.
Perhaps the most important benefit I received from this vow is consistency. Let me just say this: I suck at consistency, except the sucking part. That’s consistent. I have many strengths, but being consistent and disciplined is not one of them. I’m a bit all-or-nothing. So, committing to 100 days of practice was actually quite wonderful. Once I made up my mind to do it, I did it. Without the formal vow, I probably wouldn’t have completed it.
Blending Life and Practice
Because I wasn’t going all-or-nothing, the lines between my life and practice started to blend in more than subtle ways. I started to see the relationship of my practice to everything I do and am in life. Partly, I realize that this itself is a result of deepening insight, but I think a consistent practice in the midst of life makes this even stronger. And, at one point, Hokai helped me to bring this understanding directly into the practice itself. The walls between practice and life started to dissolve, which only revealed more mysterious paradox, challenging and beautiful.
Cycling – Here We Go Again
Before this 100 day vow I had spent a lot of time cycling back and forth through familiar insights and “territory” on the path. Insight Meditators might call these: arising and passing, dark night, and equanimity. Of course, each time I cycled I would have deeper understanding with each of those, often surprising myself and delighting in the infinitely revealing nature of reality. In the 100 days, this was even stronger due to, I think, consistency, being able to return every day to the practice and continuing further. It was such a relief to actually spend time on the cushion every day with intention, not merely working with my experience in spontaneous bursts.
Finding New Edges
Cycling was not the only thing to happen in my practice. For the first time in a long while, I came up against distinctly new edges within my own awareness and embodiment. Edges are always a mixed bag for me – partly exciting, partly frightening. But this time, I was a bit more elated to feel into and breathe these edges of myself, of life, of this mystery. And now, I’m looking forward to doing that again.
After finishing the 100 days, Hokai told me to take a week off. Not one minute of formalized practice. I was surprised, as were other people. But, it made sense to let go of the discipline and structure, to let things simmer and see what arose in myself, and to let reality spontaneously help guide the next move in my path. Yes, well, I also made that week a bit longer than a week. Hey, like I said, all-or-nothing. Emphasis on the nothing. But, I’ve returned to my practice and I noticed something: It feels like coming home each time I sit on the cushion. A strong familiarity, and an embrace almost is felt each time I sit down, even if it’s been a while since I last sat. I feel something running deep within me that wasn’t there before, or perhaps was once dull and not is coursing through my veins.
Working with Hokai
Last, but not least, working with Hokai before, during, and after the 100 days has been invaluable. It’s hard for me to put into words the gratitude I feel for his help. I have been practicing for over 10 years, but I have not felt that I REALLY started practicing until meeting and working with Hokai. I have been able to navigate my practice, to dive into practice with his years of experience, deep insight, guidance, and intuition, exploring subtleties of practice that I just haven’t been able to do on my own. For that, I am incredibly thankful.
I have more posts that I will share that contain instructions Hokai has given me, as well as some my experiences and process with practice.