"There is no denying the spiritual power found within the Buddhist path," writes Ben J. Hutchison in a new post for The Under 35 Project. "But what about those times of uncertainty where your expectations of a life moving towards enlightenment feels like you’re not moving at all?" Good question. So read Ben's contribution below and share your responses. Dharma Lost and Found. So here is the story I tell myself: I’ve lost the dharma over and over again. I’ve started, stopped, changed directions, and changed lineages. And as much as the dharma has profoundly changed me, this path has brought me as much heartbreak as it has breakthroughs. I’ve read many stories portraying the healing powers of the dharma as a medicine to aid with the ailments of life. Many tell the tale of a long hard journey that ends with nourishing fulfillment from their newfound religion. I’ve experienced that. Or sometimes they’re reflecting on their normal lives and how they use the dharma to heal themselves on the side like a traveling first aid kit. I’ve used it that way too. There is no denying the spiritual power found within the Buddhist path. But what about the dips? What about those times of uncertainty where your expectations of a life moving towards enlightenment feels like you’re not moving at all? Feeling as if you have lost your path can be devastating and unexpected, especially when you feel you’ve found a spiritual practice that is supposed to provide you with unlimited peace and wisdom. I know for myself, I became profoundly disappointed in my experience with Buddhism at times. But as I’ve moved along my own path, I’ve realized that this story I was telling myself was nothing but a story. It wasn’t the life in front of me; it was a life I projected. And when my fantasy of Buddhism ran into the brick wall of reality, it was me that started to run. There have been so many times that I have lost faith on my Buddhist path. There was the time I went to my first really big Buddhist ceremony and felt, lost, alone, and unprepared. Or later when I had joined a different Buddhist group even though I didn’t feel a connection to their form of practice. I’ve had issues with dealing with sangha drama, and I’ve faced a much larger drama where I’ve had to decide which side of a spiritual argument I wanted to side with. And each time I went through these events, I felt a profound loss. It felt like I was breaking up with someone. It felt horrible. But I have to admit something. Over all those years, I didn’t really have a practice, at least not a strong one. Practice is the foundation of the dharma path or whatever you want to call it and I was never told that or maybe I just didn’t listen. I was too involved in the books, the beads, the titles, and the labels. I was consumed with trying to get somewhere. With trying to achieve enlightenment and peace. I had goals. I had expectations on myself, my sangha, and the many lineages I attached myself to. And I had it all wrong. In practicing Buddhism, in whatever form or lineage you choose, there is going to be loss and disappointment. As Dogen writes in Genjokoan, “Flowers fall amid our longing and weeds spring up amid or antipathy.” Looking back at my patterns now, I see this “loss” of mine a little differently. Now, I practice. I don’t wear beads too often. I still have books but I read them instead of carrying them around for show and tell. I shy away from wearing a Buddhist badge unless I have to. All of those things that happened to me that made me feel so alone were actually a slow peel of my conceptions and trappings I had about the religion of Buddhism. Though at the time it was easy to point out the other people involved it was me that needed the finger pointed at. This story was just the story I was telling myself because it was easier to feel this way than to actually practice my way through it. In my head, my story used to be about how I lost my dharma practice over and over again. But now losing seems more like shedding, and that shedding has revealed something so much better. So I never really lost my dharma. I just lost my trappings. And I hope you lose yours, too.