When first embarking on the spiritual path, many aspirants are filled with exuberance and enthusiasm at their newfound pursuit. And no wonder – it’s often like opening a door into an entirely new world. Unquestionably, spiritual aspirants should dive into their practices with passion and wholehearted eagerness when unfolding the deeper truths within themselves and radiating these inner treasures into the world.
But, what happens after a year or five years or twenty years of practice? Are we as enthusiastic as in our younger days? After the initial “honeymoon” period of spiritual practice is over, daily spiritual life can settle into a routine, for those who survive this initial phase. We go through the motions, but much of the joy and associated ebullient feelings have long since faded away.
So, how can we maintain our enthusiasm as if we were beginners? How do we infuse our spiritual practice with an ongoing ardor so that we can, to quote a saying often misattributed to Mark Twain, “Sing like no one’s listening, love like you’ve never been hurt, dance like nobody’s watching, and live like it’s heaven on earth”?
The answer can be found in how we maintain our joy and drive and passion throughout many of life’s routines and events. We somehow learn to renew within ourselves our joie de vivre, which buoys our family life, our career, and our mundane routines as we live our daily lives. We avoid settling into a rut, and we don’t give up when adversities strike.
But what of our spiritual practices? Are we still deeply in love with God? Has our meditation routine stagnated? Do we mechanically go through the motions without really tasting the joy in our practice? The Hindus have a word for taste – rasa – which in this context means palpably feeling the effects of our practice. These “fruit of the spirit” collectively interweave within us to become a living, experiential reality that scintillatingly embraces the very core of our being.
Our challenge is to overcome any jadedness we feel in our spiritual routines. For this, we can adopt the enthusiasm of a novice practitioner. This means fostering a “beginner’s mind,” as Sōtō Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki enjoins. In this way, we cultivate a youthful mindset – one of wonder and curiosity, lightheartedness and ardent faith. “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3).
To carry on the status quo will not suffice if we are to make progress. Our practice cannot be mechanical; it needs to be fueled by passionate longing. We must jettison our adult frame of mind during our spiritual routines and continuously renew our inner joy. Cultivating enthusiasm on a daily basis will make all the difference in our practice.