Signs that autumn is well underway are all around us. The experience at every sense door tells us the season is rapidly changing. While we may be noticing this now, the changes started long ago. In fact, the moment the sun crossed its zenith on the summer solstice, the movement towards winter began. As sunlight hours started to shorten each day, it created the conditions for change, and for change in a specific direction. Just after the solstice, the days were only seconds shorter, but day after day, the seconds compound and the sun gets lower and lower in the sky. What we are experiencing is a lawful consequence of that slow but inexorable process.
Our Dharma practice follows the exact same unfolding. It can be so easy and so common for a practitioner to feel like they are not seeing any changes due to their practice. This is due partly to the instant gratification mentality in our popular culture. It’s also due to the fact that the time line of the unfolding of the Eightfold Path is much bigger than anything we have experienced. There is another reason why one may feel that “nothing is happening” and that’s what I’m pointing to using the analogy above. That is, things are cumulative and take time. The moments of mindfulness you have today may not “come to fruition” for years to come. Worrying about how we are doing is antithetical to the practice. We simply engage with the practice as best we can and leave the rest to the Dharma.
So, the next time you start to berate yourself over the fact that you still … [fill in the blank] or still can’t … [fill in the blank], take solace in the fact that it didn’t seem like much was happening in terms of the seasons changing that last week of June. And yet, something was absolutely happening, organically and lawfully. Your practice, each of our practices, unfold in this same manner.