Now you have to stand in desire,
all your life long,
if you are to make progress in the way of perfection.
~Cloud of Unknowing, Anonymous
In everyday situations, when faced with ambiguity, conflict or other challenges, we are prone to respond instinctively with a fight or flight reaction. In spiritual practice, on the contrary, we are encouraged to just sit, do nothing, and breathe.
In Contractions, I wrote about the crucible as indispensable to the transformation and sublimation of energy in relationships. The same holds true of spiritual practice.
What happens when, voluntarily entering the crucible, you offer no escape from cycles or loops of thoughts and feelings? At first it may feel unbearably uncomfortable, increasing suffering. And at the beginning, it is tempting to get up and do something else. This is the right thing to do if one is not choosing to practice. But if one intends to go beyond suffering rather than avoid it, one must stay with it. Then the energy in the loop is contained and intensified, just like the rays of the sun through a magnifying glass. You do not have to focus, just contain. This is the exercise of following the breath, the magic crucible of practice and prayer. And just like oxygen to fire, breathing will give you all the space and fuel you need.
No solutions emerge with practice, because practice is a constant rekindling of what you already are-- beyond all problems, beyond all specifics, beyond all thises and thatses. Practice will not bless you or bring you peace or any state of mind or emotional satisfaction. It will bring you face-to-face with being, that's all, but that's everything! Just being. Dynamic, active, desiring, but not wanting, love.