Have you ever made a vow?
I’m guessing most of us would think of this word in relation to joining up with a life partner: making your wedding vows. My teacher spoke about the experience of making a vow, and talked specifically about a making a “true vow.” More about that in a bit.
In meditation, I began with a simple purpose. I had been reading lots of books about meditation, and had the growing sense that people who meditated were able to develop and access capabilities that were intriguing, and absent from my own life. Do you remember that line in the movie When Harry Met Sally? I kept having that thought arise about the authors: I’ll have what she’s having.
As I started to practice, little bits of my energy began to free up, because I was not using them for the scattered purposes I had previously applied them to. Shame… irritation… hiding from the truth… covering over my foibles… these activities turned out to be a waste of time. When I would catch onto myself, it would just be the most obvious thing to quit engaging in wasteful activities. Sometimes I think of my life in meditation as the great energy conservation project.
As things have started to clear up for me (and I’ll be honest here, that’s still a great work-in-process) there has been new energy to direct in more beneficial ways. For me, there has always been a lot of life energy. I’m so grateful for that. With growing clarity, and lots of energy, something different is bound to happen. Here is where the vow comes into play.
A true vow is one that rises up, unbidden, and with some energy associated with it. As I’ve experienced this, it’s more like, the vow made me. Do you know what I’m describing here? It’s likely to come with some intrigue, trepidation, and even fear, because it’s so big and unknown in nature, and you are simultaneously aware of the size and import of it.
With a true vow, you don’t know what it’s going to be, or when or where it’s going to take you over. At first, there might be some modest ones that come along, almost like life is trying you out to see if you’re available to such changes in direction. There’s bound to be some sacrifice, tests of humility, and some apparent stumbling as you find your feet with this new way of orienting yourself. If you can keep yourself aligned to your deepest principles, life will help you out. At least that’s my experience. To really make the most of this, it’s essential to invest in your own clarity, cultivate humility and use your energy well (meaning, you gotta keep practicing and polishing awareness.)
A true vow is going to test your mettle, which also means it’s going to create your mettle.
Margaret Fletcher is an avowed teacher at the Center for Mindfulness