A student in one of our programs asked me the other day how she was doing compared to where she should be at this point in her practice.
A Tassajara guest once asked Suzuki-roshi why he hadn’t enlightened her yet.
Our addiction to progress, to getting somewhere (something, someone), seems so reasonable. Working on ourselves has become a cultural imperative. Doesn’t everyone want to get better, improve – in short, become lovable? Yet, the goal is both unreachable (our self-improvement to-do list is endless) and a bit murky. What exactly would I need to look like and be doing in order to be perceived as enlightened? And if I do have an idea of what that looks like, what’s keeping me from acting that way right now?
How much progress do we have to make before we can act with compassion, tranquility and kindness? We seem to need an enlightenment progress bar, and we can’t act until the bodhisattva program download is complete. But as Uchiyama-roshi noted with his usual wake-up-already terseness:
To sit with the idea that you are going to gain enlightenment is just ridiculous.
So let’s just pretend we’re already there. (Instead of pretending we’re not.) Let’s just go ahead and be helpful and caring and spacious even in the alleged absence of enlightenment. Instead of being dragged around by the delusion that we’re not good enough to be good, let’s take the reins and drive compassionately, wisely to the best of our maybe-limited capability. Lovingkindness isn’t a destination, it’s a state of heart available in every moment. It steadfastly defies our excuse of self-inadequacy. It doesn’t need to make any progress because it has already arrived. And it’s not leaving – ever.