I recently checked out an audiobook rendering of Jack Kornfield‘s A Path with Heart. This struck me as particularly insightful:
“Every spiritual life entails a succession of difficulties, because every ordinary life also entails a succession of difficulties–what the Buddha described as the inevitable sufferings of existence. In a spiritually-informed life, however, these inevitable difficulties can be the source of our awakening, deepening wisdom of patience, balance, and compassion. Without this perspective, we simply bear our sufferings like an ox, or like a foot soldier under a heavy load.
The basic principle of spiritual life is that our problems become the very place to discover wisdom and love. A genuine spiritual path does not avoid difficulties or mistakes, but leads us to the art of making mistakes wakefully, bringing to them the transformative power of our heart. When we set out to love–to awaken, to become free–we are inevitably confronted with our own limitations. As we look into ourselves, we see more clearly our unexamined fears, conflicts, our frailties and confusion. In this way, our life might appear as a series of mistakes. One famous Zen master actually described spiritual practice as “one mistake after another,” which is to say one opportunity after another to learn. It is from difficulties, mistakes, and errors that we actually learn. To live life is to make a succession of errors. In difficulties, we can learn the true strength of our practice. At these times, the wisdom that we’ve cultivated, and the depth of our love and forgiveness is our chief resource. To meditate, to pray, to practice at such times can be like pouring soothing balm onto the aches of our heart.”