If it isn’t one thing, its another. That is our suffering in a nutshell. We are all One Thing and we think we are another. When we make an other form what is one, we suddenly stand apart from the world. We have lots of little pieces. There is me and you and we each have a mind and a body, and a self and a soul.
In order to make ourselves seem more like one again, we start to collect things from the world around us. This is me, that is mine. We constantly add to ourselves and become a jigsaw puzzle of our minds, bodies, friends, families, our pasts, our prospects and our possessions. We measure ourselves against each other and, depending on how we measure, we feel good or bad about the results. We become so confused by our separateness, that the idea that we are all part of One Thing is hard to imagine.
When we see one another more as one than other, then we can let go of all the little pieces that we have come to think of as ourselves and just be our Self. When we practice being our big Self, our little problems have nothing to hang onto.
There seems to be a contradiction in the ideas of attachment and attainment. As Buddhism teaches non-attachment it also teaches practitioners to work toward freeing all sentient beings from delusions. How can anybody work toward such a lofty goal without being attached to the goal?
It is impossible not to set goals. When we have to go to the bathroom, we set a goal of getting our bodies to a toilet before we soil ourselves. Attachment causes excessive suffering in the event we soil ourselves. Soiling ourselves now and again is a part of our practice of getting to bathrooms.
If you are suffering in some way, it is likely that the suffering has its roots in your attachment to an idea. In working on non-attachment, you do not have to let go of your goals. Your goals are part of your practice. Your suffering is also part of your practice. Just because you understand that attachment causes suffering does not mean you can cut off all attachment, it just gives you an idea of where to look when you suffer.
When you want to attain something, that attainment will come with attachment and suffering. If you don’t want to attain anything, that non-attainment will come with attachment and suffering. Attain away.
Destiny is what brought you to this point. The rest is yet to be. As soon as it happens, it is destiny. It would be nice if we could control our fates, but it is also nice that we cannot. The world continually surprises us. It takes us on wild rides we never would have designed for ourselves. That too, is our fate. It is also our destiny that we have come to this moment where we can make choices for ourselves. Being able to contribute to our destiny is our gift.
If the fates are smiling on us, then we can take great pride in our contributions to our destiny. If the fates are frowning upon us, then we must take the blame. That is the down side of our input into our destiny. Once we accept the blame as graciously as we accept the credit, then destiny becomes our friend again.
Destiny is liberating. It is It as it is. When we accept our destiny, we know just where we are and we are free to make the best choice in the moment. We can pick what movie to watch, what food to taste, what word to write next. Bliss.
When you accept your destiny and your role in creating your destiny, you see that you have the ability to transform your world. If you feel you are not up to the task, then you have not fully accepted your fate. You are still holding out for something to be different. It will be different, but you must help to create the difference you need. It’s your destiny.
Rest here for a moment. Leave your self by the door.
Set your soul by the fire. Let your body be born.
Breathe in the bright sunshine. Breathe out the sweet song
Of your life, left behind you, just where it belongs.
Sleep in deep dreaming of a present so still
And a flexible future that will bend with your will.
You are the soft sunshine, the fire, the breath,
The past and the future, the birth and the death.
When you wake to this moment, the world is new.
Now embark, with the ember of unbreakable you.
Living with your ego is like telling lies. They both make you suffer. When you lie, it usually doesn’t take long for reality to conflict with the lie and you have to come up with another lie to back up the first lie. Maintaining that string of lies will make you suffer. If you lie and tell somebody you like liver and onions and then you go to their house and they serve you liver and onions, if you need to maintain your lie, you will have to suffer through eating liver and onions.
Your ego works the same way, except you are not so conscious about the reality that you are lying about. You imagine yourself to be a specific kind of person and being that person, consistently making the choices that person makes, causes you to suffer.
With lying, at least you know what is the truth. With ego, you may not even know that there is another you. You are just you. How can you not make the choices that you make? That is where pain and suffering pushes you to confront your ego. When maintaining your current ego causes you enough pain, you revolt. You challenge your ego. You stop eating your liver and onions and say, “I’m sorry. I lied. I don’t like liver and onions. I just thought you would like me better if I liked liver and onions.” That is freedom.
My daughter loves Christmas. Despite hating to bathe, she was belting out Christmas carols from the shower the other day. It was the sound of pure joy. On Christmas morning, we noticed her get out of bed at four in the morning, peek under the tree and retreat to her room with glee in her step. Although she looks forward to Christmas for all the presents she will get, I notice that what brings her the most pleasure is giving presents. She doesn’t know she enjoys that the most. If you asked her what she likes most, she would say getting presents, but when we are opening gifts, I see how she delights in giving. I enjoy her joy every day. Christmas is like a joyful meteor shower, with so many little moments.
Every moment is an opportunity to be mindful. Your breath is always a good reminder to be mindful because it is always there. Your emotions are also always there. You can use your happiness to be mindful or your fear. The negative emotions are especially good to use because those, we generally try to avoid. Also, negative feelings can inspire you to harm others or yourself. Mindfulness can help you stay with an emotion until it goes away without causing any more problems.
When you are feeling negative emotions, mindfulness can derail your train of thought. Instead of thinking that you are so angry because so and so did such and such, you think, Wow, I’m angry. With mindfulness you then notice your surroundings, the sounds, sights, smells and also your thoughts. Each time you think about so and so again you can see how that thought feeds your anger. This may be the difference between punching so and so in the mouth and finding a peaceful resolution to the problem.
Mindfulness is helpful in all parts of your life. Life is filled with amazing, delightful details. Whenever you notice your breath, the sun, the moon, the wind, when you put on your socks, taste your food, or take a shower, these are all moments for mindfulness. When you are mindful, you take a break from the story of your life and live your life. Great things will come.
If it were possible to practice death, we would all have tried it once or twice. If we each had a chance to experience death and continue living, we would have a renewed appreciation for life. If we could understand death concretely, we would not fear it looming on the horizon. We would no longer live under its spell. We would not grieve so desperately when others pass beyond. We would also not grieve each setback in our lives. If we had an chance to peek behind the curtain, we would no longer imagine that we are separate from each other.
The world beyond death is not available to us in a preview, so we cling to what we know. We see that if I stub my toe, you don’t feel any pain, so we think that you and I are separate. If I stub my toe, I don’t feel any pain in my elbow, but I am sure that my elbow and toe are both equally a part of me.
Just as my birth is a part of me, my death is a part of me and you are a part of me. I don’t know for certain that a practice death would help us see through the confusion of our lives, but something as large, certain and unknown as real death is enough to contribute to our confusion. We don’t have to practice death to free ourselves from death’s spell. We just have to practice life. It’s all right there. It’s alright here.
When life hurts so much that death seems like a welcome option, I hope you don’t take matters into your own hands. If you have determined that death is the best option for you, you should seek a second opinion. You should seek the opinion of somebody close to you. Seek the opinion of a person who will carry your pain for you.
If you are carrying such pain, you would not willingly pass that pain on to somebody else. You never asked for the pain, but it was given to you. Your lot is to transform that pain. Transforming pain is possible. It is a full time occupation. Each moment you carry that pain, you change it a little. You should carry that pain for as long as you can. Use it to bring kindness and compassion into the world. Don’t let it turn into violence.
If you have been to the edge and have found a way back, you have invaluable insight. You know something about transforming pain. Please stick around and share your wisdom.
Words can only point to wisdom. The truth cannot be spoken or written, it can only be danced around, like a sombrero. The truth of words also contains the lie of words, the boxing in of a concept that does not fit in a box. The only truth that words convey is the truth of reading and writing, talking and listening and thinking.
The problem with words and language is that words take over our thinking. We are so good at language that we think in language and the language can get in the way of our actual experience. We start to think things are as they are described.
It is sort of like our infatuation with celebrities. We see somebody in a movie or on TV and even though that person is a stranger to us, when we see them in real life, we don’t react to them as a stranger. We think they are something more real than real. Movies do that with places too. In the movie Rocky, Sylvester Stalone ran up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. Before that movie, people just walked up those steps. After the movie, people took pictures of themselves running up those steps and pumping their fists in the air. People were seeing the steps in a different way. The steps became a stage. Another layer of thought was imposed on those steps.
That piling on of concepts is what language does to our experience. Language becomes a scaffolding upon which we build understanding, but there comes a point when we need to step off the scaffold. Words of wisdom are more words than wisdom. If your thoughts are in words, they may obscure your wisdom. You wisdom is always there, playing with words.