Seeking self-esteem is like trekking through the Himalayas hoping to find a Yeti. We tell ourselves: “Just keep scaling the slopes—looking, achieving, producing, accumulating—and eventually I will get there. I will feel good about myself.” But when have we ever found the mythical creature? When have we ever found a self that is good enough?
Even as a spiritual teacher, life is not always easy. There is an idea that after awakening, life just flows along in some kind of fluffy way—that there is nothing we have to do and nothing we want and nothing to work toward—and so we experience only the bliss of ease and happiness. But this is blatantly not true, at least not from the perspective of the human experience.
I was leading a writing retreat in Italy recently when one of the students—a professional psychologist, longtime practitioner of Buddhism, and would-be memoirist—posed a question that’s frequently asked: Why is writing a spiritual practice?
We’ve all done it. We behave in a way that feels painful, or is destructive, or think we shouldn’t, and we resolve to behave differently in the future. We believe that the way to change behavior A is to take up behavior B. What we discover is that, however fervently we wish to change our behavior, it’s not that easy. We can’t just drop behavior A just because we’ve decided to for whatever reason.