It’s over three months since my memoir The Novice was published, and that time has been an emotional roller-coaster. After fifteen years imagining the book and another ten writing it, I came to think of it as the labour of a lifetime. Imagine my hopes and expectations.

The Novice has received wonderful feedback and endless compliments, but sales have been slow. I’ve taken this by turns as a slap in the face, a marketing miscalculation and the beginning of a long haul. The latter is most realistic—in theory—but doesn’t mean the other scenarios never get to me. Whenever I walk into a bookstore I take a deep breath and gaze at huge the number of really, really good titles, with hundreds more every week. How will mine ever stick out of the haystack? Sigh!

These ups and downs remind me that despite all I know about mind training, the momentum of my emotional habits can always sideswipe me. It’s true that after thirty-five years of mindful reflection some things are easier to handle than others—but there are no guarantees. I’m much happier than I used to be, and more stable, and put this down mostly to being more honest with myself. The bottom line, however, is the mental discipline to remain clear and focussed in each moment, and that’s a moving target.

The force of a lifetime’s mental habits isn’t reversed in a few weeks or even a few years; I keep pushing on. What else can I do? And so it goes with The Novice. What else can I do? Am I optimistic? Sometimes. Am I pessimistic? Of course, at times I am. Can I maintain just the good attitude and let go of the bad? On a moment to moment basis, yes—as long as I’m truly attentive—but permanently? The Buddha said it was possible, and I sure want to believe him, but I can’t speak from experience. All I can say is, “I don’t know.” I try to stay clear-headed, patient and attentive, but every moment is a challenge. I figure I either try or give up trying. Of course, I keep trying.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Author: Stephen Schettini

Host of The Naked Monk

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