Guest Blog by Ian Ralby: The Choice To Practice….

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At the conclusion of the course on “A Spiritual Survival Kit” (see here), I asked for the chance to guest blog in order to share some reflections. Having grown up with my mother as both my mom and my teacher, I have witnessed her teaching and her students’ development from a fairly unique vantage point. I vividly remember when she wrote the Survival Kit in 1991 and why she wrote it. Almost a quarter century later, it is helpful to take stock of what has changed. And what hasn’t.

In revisiting the Survival Kit, my main observation is how consistent my mother’s teaching has been all these years. What she says now is no different than what she was saying in the early 1990s. For me, those same words have totally different meaning at this point, but they are still the same words. In a funny way, I’m left wondering how I could have misunderstood so much for so long when it was so clearly articulated in black and white all those years ago.

The truth remains the truth.

And yet so much has changed. I have changed, my mom has changed and her students have changed. People who have resisted growth have fallen by the wayside. Some have left and come back to her years later, ready to grow. Some have disappeared. And new ones have come. And through all this, my mother has been saying the same thing for twenty-five years.

So why do the Survival Kit and my mom’s daily lessons make so much more sense now than they did in 1991? Or even ten years ago? I’m reminded of the experience of reading the US Constitution at school, again in law school and again when I had practiced law for a while. The document did not change, but my relationship to it did. Each time I return to the Constitution, my understanding of it is enriched by my ongoing professional practice and development. I pick up on new things I had not really grasped before – things I didn’t even know enough about to know I didn’t understand. The same goes for the Survival Kit.

Understanding the words is not enough. Repeatedly returning to texts like the Yoga Sutras, the Shiva Sutras, the Bible, Evelyn Underhill’s Mysticism, and my mom’s Spiritual Survival Kit gives us the chance to see what we have learned and to discover how much more we have to learn.

And then there is the matter of choice.

I remember the day, the weather, the temperature, and the smell of autumn air at the moment I consciously chose to practice. It was a simple choice – choose to live my life to the fullest, or to let my small self, my ego run me. Yet it had to be conscious and had to be active – I had to choose my path.

We all have a choice – in everything. The more I work with my mom, the more I recognize my own choices and those of others – conscious and unconscious alike. It has been amazing to watch people transform over the years after making the choice to live fully. They are unmistakably happier (even when going through difficulties), more authentic and more alive.   And it has been equally sad and disappointing to watch people either stay the same or, indeed, transform upon making the choice to stay committed to their wrong identification with their small selves. Their discontent (even under ‘good’ circumstances), inauthenticity and dullness are palpable. What has been nice to see in the short time that I have been back from abroad is that most of the people coming to study with my mom at this point have clearly chosen to let go of their false identification with what is not truly them. It is always a joy to see people make that choice.

When my mom wrote the Survival Kit in 1991, I had lots of choices laid before me. It took me a long time to even recognize that and perhaps even longer to consciously and consistently choose to practice. Revisiting the Survival Kit has made me want, more than ever, the wisdom beneath the words. That’s what I choose to pursue. You?

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