Sometimes, in some ranging and amorphous way, it just plain marvels me how things work out in so-called spiritual practice.
In India, I read, there is a format for a way in which a man or woman might lead this life: Grow up, have a family, and towards the end, devote your energies to spiritual matters. It has a sensible ring to it, for those inclined, but the plain fact is that such an easily-defined path is seldom so easy or straight-forward or blocked-out. More usually, there is a bit of this and a bit of that cropping up in our lives ... professional life, family life, spiritual curiosities and efforts arising with little or no regard for formats. And our emphases are a matter of circumstance and choice.
This morning, for example, I had a note from a young fellow in Norway, a Muslim who has taken an interest in Buddhism. He writes from time to time and I write back. He seems to want or need a sounding board and I am part of that need. I don't say no to Islam and I don't say no to his sometimes scattered views of the 'honorable' way to lead this life. What I do say is that I think he would be happier if he got to the bottom of things, whatever those things might be. And every time I say this in one way or another, he writes back what amounts to a lengthy and forceful, "yes, but...."
Yes, but ... he doesn't see things my way. And when I say that I don't want him to see things my way, that I would far prefer him to see things his way (his most profoundly honest way), he writes back again ... "yes, but..." It feels like encouraging a kid who would dearly love to jump off a diving board for the first time ... what a lot of fun! But every time I say, "go ahead, you can do it, you're safe," the plaintive response comes back, "I can't ... I'm scared."
Last Sunday, Jeff didn't come to the zendo to sit. He has been a pretty determined and thoughtful visitor, so I noticed his absence. But Jeff and his wife are looking for a house, a place in which to make their life. Two Sundays ago, they found a possible house, something they thought they could afford ... so maybe things turned out well and Jeff needed to cross the T's and dot the I's on that situation -- a real life situation that needed his attention. In order to do that, he had to set aside whatever interest he had in coming to sit. It was just what needed to be done. Maybe ... but I don't really know any of this. I'm just guessing.
Real life situations crop up. Your real life, my real life. Ordinary stuff, some of it happy, some of it sad, some of it mixed. But it doesn't lend itself to formats. "Shit happens" to quote the bumper sticker. Wonderful stuff happens too. But whatever the stuff is, it doesn't lend itself to formats. We choose our formats over and over again only to see them shapeshift in reality. It's pretty wow, in one sense. In another sense, it's pretty ordinary.
Within this shapeshifting world of circumstances, it does marvel me that anyone might take up or discover a spiritual path that is more than just another shapeshifting format. Seriously, how does that happen? What piece of good fortune is that? And the answer, I suppose, is that 'good fortune' is just another shapeshifting format.
Which doesn't mean there is no such thing as good fortune.