Why the Spiritual Path Is More Than a Consolation Prize“The spiritual path is a consolation prize for people whose lives have gone to hell.” I wrote that in my journal when I was in my mid-30s and nothing was going according to plan. I had left my six-year marriage. A few years earlier, my parents had divorced after 37 years. I had no kids or boyfriend, no savings, few possessions, and no concept of who I was amid all this destruction. Thankfully, I had yoga. I found that dragging myself to the studio was the only thing that consistently made me feel better. Often, I’d break down sobbing in the middle of a hip-opener. But I’d always leave feeling more grounded and hopeful than when I had entered the room. As a result of my ghostwriting and freelance editing career, I blessedly had been exposed to Buddhism, working on both Infinite Life by Robert Thurman, Ph.D. and The Art of Happiness in a Troubled World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D. I was able to call to mind lessons from these books: Life is filled with suffering. We can only control our response to it. I read spiritual books, old and new, and came to see gratitude as the most fundamental emotion. Following advice from wise friends, I embarked on my first and, one year later, second Vipassana 10-day silent meditation retreats. These were immensely challenging experiences. Rather than running from my agony, I had to sit … and sit … and sit … with it. The long fingers of anxiety gripped me and shook me to my core. In many ways, it sucked. But overall, the experience offered me access to a new place deep within myself: a place of peace. While doing this work, I went on that rant about the path to enlightenment being for suckers.

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