We should not be distressed by lapses from grace, those days when the mind is ceaselessly restless. It may be that we are trying too hard, or we may have become inflated by what we imagine as our progress in meditation, so that a fall from grace brings us back to earth. It is like the game of Snakes and Ladders. Meditation is an ever-renewed struggle; time and again we slide to the bottom. Of course, if we concentrate on winning, the game will seem even more pointless; we do not play to win – not in this game!

Once a year perhaps, in the game of Solitaire, all the marbles disappear until only one is left in the centre. We gaze at the circular board and the single marble and rest content. It is what Zen masters call a moment of satori: a sense of having broken through, when everything seems to fall into place.

And then! It is often after such an experience that we fall most lamentably from grace. ‘It has been a splendid day,’ wrote T.H.White in The Goshawk, ‘He would go back. He was sure to. Goshawks, and this was the second time I had learned from experience, went back two places every time they went forward one. “There is no short cut,” said my good book “to the training of the Goshawk.”’   


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