A. This is one of the most difficult issues that we have to face in our quest for the practice that is right for our temperament, and made doubly difficult for us in the West because these days we are overwhelmed by choice. Traditionally, in the East, whatever country you were born in decided that issue for you. You just got on with whatever the indigenous tradition was. We unfortunately don’t have the luxury of not having to make a decision.

My advice is to explore the various ways and then decide which tradition attracts you most via your inner feelings rather than via your head. Proceed, and see how it goes. After some time you may well doubt your decision to follow that tradition and find yourself at a crossroad of carrying on or trying something else. Not easy to know what to do, but I can offer a guideline that may help.

If you are having difficulties, stay with what you have committed yourself to, stay with it and see if in a few weeks or months things get better. The problem we all have is that whatever way we decide to go there will inevitably be bottlenecks, and then we doubt the practice. Never make a decision quickly, and never when in an emotional state. Stay with it and see if the problem clears. Wait a good period of time and mull the situation over in a dispassionate way. If you still don’t feel right with what you are doing then explore alternatives. Restlessness is our biggest mara and our ability to stay with difficulties our biggest challenge. A need for change may well be necessary, and by sitting with it very often that change will take place almost of itself anyway. Ultimately things can work out OK anyway. Change is mysterious, something can present itself quite unexpectedly if you create space for that mystery to take place, then you can slip effortlessly into the new way.

As for my experience, I think it illustrates the mystery of change, although it is admittedly an unusual example. I was happy with my Zen practice and had no thoughts of change. I went to Sri Lanka for a holiday and met a monk who inspired me to become a monk. My initial reaction was to recoil from that idea, but inside I knew that this was the next thing for me to do. There was no restlessness or emotional volition involved, rather an expectancy that it was the right thing for me to be doing. I considered it to be a part of a mystery that I was familiar with. This mystery is difficult to describe, but is something we all can learn to open up to and trust – with time. I have expressed my thoughts and feelings in my first book concerning this event in my life, and could best refer you to that.