According to Jack Kornfield, there is an old Sufi saying that goes, "Praise Allah, and tie your camel to the post," meaning -- yes, pray, meditate, but also do what is necessary in the world; find a way to manifest your spiritual work in the dailiness of life and love.
It bespeaks the same sort of practicality I hear in one of my husband's favorite sayings: "Trust, but verify." And at the root of both these sayings I hear the importance of being alert, grounded, attuned to the world around you as well as to the voice within.
Cynthia Bourgeault speaks of horizontal and vertical axes, the horizontal being time and the vertical being spirit. Somehow we strive to sit with Jesus at the intersection of this cross, awake to inner and outer promptings of the spirit, centered in the present while aware of the limitations of the past and possibilities of the future.
It's astonishing -- once you accept this as a goal -- to watch how often the mind strays off point; how easy it is to get caught up in thoughts that pull you away from that complete and total presence. Though I am not one of those who can say meditation has taken me to new and greater heights, I can at least say it's taught me how my mind loves to wander -- and where it likes to go.
But I think just knowing that is helpful: if I can learn to observe those tendencies, and pull myself back to center when I'm sitting, then I am better at watching myself respond in stressful situations, and pull myself back to center there as well. And fortunately I have a lifetime still to practice this level of awareness!
Ultimately I think both these phrases are about that dual pull we feel between the ideal and the real; between dreams of what was or could be and what is now; between the longing for holiness, perfection, all sorts of divine absolutes and the reality that is who we are here, now, in this moment, warts and all.