the practical buddhist : essentials

how to practice when you have the flu

For the past few days, both my son and I have had the flu.

We’ve endured the typical flu symptoms of nausea that keeps you from eating because of the unpleasant results and the eventual bodily function that leaves you dehydrated and weak.

Today is the first day we’ve been able to eat solid food. Gatorade and Vitamin Water has been  our only intake since 3a on Sunday. I’ve missed two days of work and Justin, two days of school.

Throughout the hours laying in bed feeling like a truck hit ran me over, a consistent thought pattern kept recurring:

Practice. Should I? Why shouldn’t I?

Obstacles happen

Especially when first starting a Buddhist practice, most everything in your life can be an obstacle that sits between you and your practice. It’s inevitable really. Whenever we start any activity that is aimed at improving an area of our life whether it be working on our abs, trimming our thunder-thighs, or making time in our day for meditation, Resistance kicks in and we cave.

As I lay there, half delirious from fever and the room spinning due to dehydration, I tried to remain mindful of the sensations and feelings I was experiencing. Not because recalling it later would be of any benefit, but because being mindful and choosing to living in the present moment is the path I choose to walk no matter what the present moment holds.

I must admit that I didn’t meditate for two days due to the inability to sit up for any longer than a few minutes, but I did remain mindful. I practiced kindness in caring for my son and for myself, and in the expression of gratitude to my ex-wife who graciously came over to cook homemade chicken soup and make a couple of grocery runs for Gatorade and Vitamin Water.

No matter what the obstacle may be, there is always a way to compensate for it.

Obstacles are transient (and imaginary)

Obstacles to practice may exist, but they’re mostly made up, in my experience. I know this to be true in my own life. I’ve created false realities like:

These and myriad others come to mind. But here’s the thing….obstacles don’t matter, they’re transient, and because they’re imaginary, we control them. They either are empowered or dis-empowered by us because we created them in the first place.

Practicing when you have the flu, have bills to pay, don’t have enough time, feel you’re not good enough to begin or sustain a practice, or anything else that isn’t true, is the best time to practice.

You should practice anyway.

Because if you don’t, then what is your practice but a meaningless exercise that will very soon prove pointless.  When I encounter an obstacle that stands between me and my practice, eventually I find a way around it.

I’m not naive enough to think that I’m stronger than Resistance, but I do know that unless I push through and practice anyway, then I empower the current and all future obstacles.

Forgive yourself

Until I do find a way around the obstacle, I forgive myself.  This is important because too often new practitioners feel they must be perfect. But there is nothing that’s perfect. We will never attain perfection. Enlightenment isn’t perfection nor is it experienced by those different from you or I. In forgiving yourself, you clear the path of obstacles and can move forward again.



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