Several years ago, one of my teachers related to me a metaphor that has served to shape how I approach spirituality and spiritual practice. He informed me that spiritual enlightenment, like digging a well, takes dedicated effort and digging in the same location. However, a lack of trusting the location one has starting digging at may lead to a large field full of small holes: due to digging here, digging there, but never getting deep enough to truly reach the fresh water below.
To a good degree, this has been my affliction. My anxious desire to be with God has brought both a sacred meaning to my life, but also a deep sense of failure at times when I feel like I have fallen short of that goal. Throughout my life I have moved from one digging spot to another after my efforts in a prior location feel “spent.” However, as I move into my new location I feel a renewed sense of hope that this might be the spot where I strike a deep stream of fresh cool water; a stream which fills my well, quenching my thirst and satisfying me after all of my prior efforts.
I can’t say for sure if I have, or ever will, reach the water. However, during my intensive residency program (at St. Joseph’s Healthcare) I gained a new appreciation for the dirt I am digging in.
I have come to learn that dirt is not merely what separates me from the water beneath it, it also holds me up, allows me to stand tall, and, in my efforts at digging it, I have gained access to discover what is buried beneath.
I have learned that dirt is a humble substance, but also strong. Dirt has a history of past lives and forms prior to its present state. And, together with water, dirt provides the space for new life in its various forms to exist and develop each in its own unique way.
Digging my well has provided me with a new way of looking at my search for water: I have become inspired to honor and find value in my effort even when I am not sure if my goal has been reached. And, seeing honor in my digging in the dirt helps me to remain steady in one place.