How Do We Know When We’re “Ready?”

I’ve often heard references in a wide variety of contexts regarding being “ready.” Mainly, that if one is not ready – for whatever change, reality, or awareness – that the vehicle, help, or message will not be heard. Or, the opposite that when we are ready, opportunity knocks. Then, it’s a matter of whether we answer, open, and step through the door.

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on ideas around the above concepts. In particular, I find myself wondering: How do we know when we are ready? How do we differentiate between preparing, gathering our energy, and taking a leap versus holding back and diverting our attention due to aversion?

In part, this issue came up for me as a consequence of becoming involved with a Buddhist resource center. My experience over the last few months has been wonderfully supportive and assisted with deepening my practice. I was pleasantly surprised to find teachings and teachers with such integrity available to me through direct contact. This led me to further question: Why now? Was I ready before and simply holding back? What are the underlying causes of – what seems like – me procrastinating for two years to step through the doors of the center?

Image by The Knowles Gallery

As I attempt to settle into a Buddhist community, or Sangha in Pali, I have the opportunity to observe a lovely array of emotions. Naturally, they aren’t exactly “fun” even though there is plenty of joy and well-being. In spite of the warm and welcoming environment, I find that I am still quite adept at feeling inadequate.

Initially, I thought that my feelings of self-doubt were due to questioning my ability to really commit to a Buddhist path. Yet every time I evaluated it, I realized that didn’t quite make sense. My psyche tried to convince me otherwise by providing all or nothing scenarios. But, in spite of my neuroses trying to hook onto them, I just couldn’t. I knew, my soul knew, that simply wasn’t the case. In reality, I have essentially been living this path for most of my adult life. I just didn’t have a frame of reference and means to articulate it until more recent years.

As I continued to dig deeper, I finally discovered the real demon. I wasn’t afraid of the path, I was afraid of being part of a group. My aversion was blending the path and Sangha together as one. In an effort to avoid the core pain, stress, and dukkha created from a fear of not being accepted or welcomed, my ego projected insecurities onto my ability to walk my talk regarding the teachings.

No wonder I feel at peace…. until I even think about speaking up in the group. Pounding heart, rising pulse, and perspiration are not so subtle signs that clearly some aversion is being triggered. Again, I projected my doubts by telling myself it was because all those who spoke up were so eloquent and articulate. Even though there is truth in that, in reality that is an exaggeration and just another example of how my ego can trick me into avoiding the core emotion. It’s not surprising really. With the exception of a brief year as a young adult, I really haven’t “successfully” been part of a group.

For me, opening to Sangha is a risky endeavor. I think it is similar to entering into an intimate relationship with another being. In order to foster sincere intimacy, we are required to open, let go, and surrender with honesty and mindfulness. We are asked to embrace our vulnerability. Ultimately, we can’t really hide from ourselves or our fears and insecurities, so why not embrace the immense opportunity for the support that humanity can provide?

I still do not know the answers to some of the questions regarding being ready. I do know that I am not resisting the teachings: I am only resisting my own potential to express and experience more loving kindness and happiness. As always, I am left with the practice of opening to myself. It is up to me to welcome myself to my life and existence. It is up to me to accept and not deny my ability to create and articulate meaning and purpose through my life.

At times I am almost overwhelmed by the gift that I have allowed myself to receive simply by taking the risk of joining a community. For that I am grateful. Thank you Sangha!


© 2012 Sallie Odenthal

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