[Spiritual] practice has to be a process of endless disappointment. We have to see that everything we demand (and even get) eventually disappoints us. This discovery is our teacher. It's why we should be careful with friends who are in trouble, not to give them sympathy by holding out false hopes and reassurances. This kind of sympathy – which is not true compassion – simply delays their learning. In a sense, the best help we can give to anybody is to hasten their disappointment. Though that sounds harsh, it's not in fact unkind. We help others and ourselves when we begin to see that all our usual demands are misguided. Eventually we get smart enough to anticipate our next disappointment, to know that our next effort to quench our thirst will also fail. The promise is never kept. Even with long practice, we'll sometimes seek false solutions, but as we pursue them, we recognise their futility much more rapidly. When this acceleration occurs, our practice is bearing fruit. Good sitting [meditation] promotes such acceleration. We must notice the promise that we wish to exact from other people and abandon the dream that they can quench our thirst. We must realise that such an enterprise is hopeless.
Christians call this realisation the “dark night of the soul.” We've worn out everything we can do, and we don’t see what to do next. And so we suffer. Though it feels miserable at the time, that suffering is the turning point. Practice brings us to such fruitful suffering, and helps us to stay with it. When we do, at some point the suffering begins to transform itself, and the water begins to flow.