Practices From the Inside Out: Always, We Begin Again

Practices From the Inside Out: Always, We Begin Again December 29, 2018

Always, We Begin Again

Each moment, each hour, each day, each week, each month, each year, we begin again.

It is almost as if we are poised at the starting line of our race. All our preparation and training leads us to the moment we begin again. Each time we race our effort trains us for beginning again.

We do not start over because we want everything to be perfect this time. We do not continue beginning again to demonstrate our persistence or determination. It is not as if we are refusing to stop, refusing to quit. We do not keep trying because we are so perseverant or our will is so strong. Our trying again is not because we have not succeeded before.

We begin again because we learn and grow each time we try. It is about growing and applying what we learn each time we try.

As we put what we have learned into practice, we continue to grow and learn.

Spiritual life is not a test of endurance. We explore and practice what we discover. Recognizing spiritual life in us and the people around us, we see spiritual life more clearly. We learn to discern and spiritual life is revealed to us in more depth.

We do not earn spiritual life or health through our own determination or hard work. Spiritual life fills us because we are beginners, beginning again and again. Each time we begin again gives us opportunities to learn and practice what we have learned.

We pause to rest, to reflect, to catch our breath, to recover. Always, we begin again. We stand, looking within ourselves, and decide to take yet another first step. We begin again each time from a new place.

No two years are the same. Each new year prepares us to begin again.

Why We Begin Again

Benedict’s Rule tells us Always, we begin again.

Beginning is important. Beginning again can be exciting and energizing. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Each day on that journey depends on our first step.  Now, as we begin a new month and a new year, we continue our journeys in new ways by beginning again.

Beginning again can feel like a fresh start, letting go of what has happened, putting the past behind us. Each time we begin again has a life and energy of its own.

Beginning again can also be a challenge and a struggle. I often require more motivation to begin again than I do to continue.  It is easy for me to get discouraged and want to stop beginning again. Sometimes I need to give up control to let things get started. I usually prefer things orderly, organized, and working smoothly. Beginning again can be messy and cause a lot of disruption.

There are times when I am afraid to begin again.

Thomas Merton, a twentieth century monk and activist, wrote:

“There are no tricks and no short cuts. . . . One cannot begin to face the real difficulties of . . . life . . . unless one is first perfectly content to be a beginner and really experience oneself as one who knows little or nothing, and has a desperate need to learn the bare rudiments. Those who think they “know” from the beginning never, in fact, come to know anything. . . . We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners, all our life.”

Sometimes we begin again because we want to face what makes us afraid. When we begin again we show ourselves how much we believe in what we say we value.

How We Begin Again

Often we begin again because we are encouraged or expected to start over. We come to the end of a month or a year so we begin again. Some of us face a decision or a choice and we begin again.

There are other times when we begin again only after we have struggled with expectations and obstacles. What we believe within ourselves may be at odds with what other people tell us. We spend time and effort on emotional and analytic wrestling before we are ready to begin again.

It is essential for us to know where we are going before we begin again. Some of us need to consider how we got where we are before we set off on a new path. We might be easily influenced by other people and need time to sort out what we actually want ourselves.

What are the challenges we face in starting on a different path? Who will help us stay on the path we are beginning? How will we know the next time we need to begin again?

When we know what changes we want to make and how we intend to make them we begin again.

When We Begin Again

We need to understand we are probably not making a choice for the rest of our lives when we begin again. Our decision is not a once-and-for-all commitment we can never reconsider.

Some of us like to think we choose to resolve our conflicts and set our course permanently. The fact is, as Benedict reminds us, Always we begin again.

Spiritual life is not about finding the right path for us and taking it to the end. We are not merely following rules, but building a relationship.

As we become more open to spiritual life within us and in the world around us we recognize when we begin again and again.

Spiritual life is not about meeting goals or exceeding expectations. We begin again each day to face our own personal challenges and struggles of spiritual life.

As we begin our new practices for each of our new years spiritual life fills us with hope and courage.

We are poised at the starting line as we begin again and again and again.

When will we decide to begin again today?

How will we begin again this next week, next month, next year?

[Image by mdalmuld]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is  StrategicMonk.com, and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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