Buddhism is very vast. There are many ways in which we can approach the topic of practice, and Buddhist study. I have been practicing Buddhism for only a decade, and knew that it was my path since I was a small girl.
Practices vary in intensity, duration and focus. Each practice is unique for the student and their level. Individually each person will find directly if they had too much practice, connecting with your teacher will help you to fine tune that which is causing the strain on your practice.
Your teacher understands your motivation, aspirations and life situation and knows how to appropriately guide you.
There are certain clues that we can get when we have had too much practice. These serve as guidance on your path to realization.
- We begin to diminish our own value of the work we are doing.
- There begins the endless doubt about the practice itself.
- We are pushing to achieve a result.
- There is no more joy in what we do.
- We lost touch with the middle path.
- We feel overwhelm.
- We feel excess tension.
- We are exhausted of the practice.
The Six Paramitas serve as a guiding principle in proper practice. I always put an emphasis on Joyful Diligence. In practice there is a natural balance that needs to form organically. The practice needs to be moving us towards realization in a way that shows steady growth and integrated understanding of fruits of the practice in daily life.
As an example I can use here my personal experience in working in nursing. Having studied The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (Sogyal Rinpoche) and incorporating the practices of compassion and wisdom, mantra and contemplation has prepared me adequately to speak with clients and patients about their fears of death and impermanence in hospice and emergency settings. This shows an integrated approach of practice that benefited and continues to benefit myself as well as others.
When we have practiced too much, our joyful diligence may become more like a forced discipline that makes us dissatisfied with what we are doing. Our practice becomes mechanical rather than a cherished activity. There is a disconnect from the essence of practice. When we lose touch with the natural flow of joy in the practice it is a time to check in with the Sangha to see how connecting with other practitioners helps us to relate on the same path, share our mutual experiences, discussion and then to connect with the teacher for additional clarification and essence. Teachers are important part of the Sangha. We may learn from many sentient beings but not everyone is a teacher.
Particularly for women I believe it is important to stay deeply rooted in the softness of the practice. It is nurturing to discuss these things with the qualified teacher. This personal dialog allows for greater clarity and as a result your own connection with your heart deepens.
Rev. Dr. K. Sonan Wangmo
Image: Bhaktapur, Nepal: A girl reading in National Art Gallery. By Paweł A. K.