By Supreme Master Ching Hai, Seven-day Retreat, Hsihu, Formosa
February 13-18, 1989 (Originally in Chinese) MP3-4
Tha's why there are times when we err, want to quit, are reluctant to practice or find no fun in practicing. We may feel depressed, but don't know why. This is the character of the "winter of spiritual practice." At this time we should quickly have tonics to nourish ourselves.
The weather changes constantly. Sometimes it brings us discomfort. Sometimes it is fine, and we feel cheerful, relaxed, happy and carefree. This is what we are like when we practice well in spirituality and everything goes smoothly. We keep our precepts clearly, we are stable in meditation and strong in our faith; we have peace in our family and success in our work and business. So we feel great. At that time we think that Master is blessing us, or God and the Saints are helping us.
But sometimes we encounter difficulties in spiritual cultivation, just as we feel uncomfortable when the cold, wet winter sets in. We seem to waver in keeping our precepts and our faith is not very strong. We seem to have regressed or come to a standstill in our spiritual progress, and we feel very sad. That's the "winter of spiritual practice." When we practice smoothly, we can call it "spring" or "summer." There are seasonal differences as in spring, summer, autumn and winter, and so there are similar differences in our spiritual practice. We can't be the same every day. That's why there are times when we err, want to quit, are reluctant to practice or find no fun in practicing. We may feel depressed, but don't know why. This is the character of the "winter of spiritual practice." At this time we should quickly have tonics to nourish ourselves.
For instance, if we don't feel well or strong in the winter when it's wet and cold, we can see a doctor of Chinese medicine and take some tonics. Or we can eat more nourishing food or an extra meal every day to build up enough physical power to last until spring. In the spring we don't eat that much, and in the summer we eat very little, but we feel very comfortable, and aren't as tired or depressed as we are in the winter.
When our spirituality doesn't progress smoothly, it's like the wintertime. But we'll get over it after a while. When we're in the "winter of spiritual cultivation," we're likely to get confused, quit, or be cheated. We may feel dull, make no progress or be reluctant to practice; or unsatisfying, obstructive situations may arise. However, we should know that everything will be all right after a while. At that time even if we make mistakes, regress in our practice, or lose faith, we should just forgive ourselves. If possible, we should quickly get some "tonics!" For example, we can attend retreats, go to see Master and meet initiates more often, go to group meditation more, read more of Master's books or listen to Her tapes etc. All these are our "spiritual tonics." We'll feel much better after taking them. And then we'll be able to continue practicing until "spring" comes. During the springtime we'll feel much better and won't need that much tonic.