How wonderful do you expect life could be? How challenging is it to experience such wonderfulness? How much wonder will you allow yourself today? How hard do you plan to work for it? How wonderful is life when you don’t work to make it wonderful? Is wonder pleasurable? When life it painful, is it no longer wonderful? These are some of the things I have been thinking about lately. There are not easy black and white answers to these questions, but there is a way of knowing.
In fact, knowing, bypassing thinking altogether, is a more direct way of understanding how to enjoy life’s wonders. It is necessary to develop thinking capacity, but using thinking to try and manipulate how we feel is futile, as is all thinking after a point. Thinking can help us understand how we create our own reality but it cannot change the desire to change reality or to make it stay the same. Both of these intentions are doomed, while life continues to be wonderful, whether it is evident right now or not. What gets in the way when we feel dissatisfied, when we take ordinary life for granted, or desire something more? Simple addiction.
I do not drink or use drugs, but I am addicted to many things, things I do to get relief when this moment is unacceptable to me. It’s not easy to admit this, because once I acknowledge which habits are self-destructive, I enjoy them less. The good news is: I have recently discovered the cure to addiction, Buddhist teaching and practice. Yes indeed, this is a way to be at peace, tried and true for thousands of years! Buddhism offers a way to abide in a kind of wonder that is not based on feeling good, but rather in trusting and opening to the basic goodness within all things.
The body is ever present, standing by the mind, 100% loyal. The mind too is resilient, boundless like like outer space, invisible beyond the atmosphere of what crosses awareness. Mindfulness, known as Sati in Pali, is filling the body with this space, open, invisible, calm and expanding the body into the periphery. We don’t need to think when we are aware of what is happening in the present moment. We don’t need to take things personally when we see body and the mind for what they are. This awareness alleviates addictive cravings. Formal meditation is a way of practicing so that Sati becomes available during times tension in daily living.
Much of the time we are not aware of awareness. Awareness is like a muscle which takes effort to cultivate. We strengthen whatever we pay attention to. We can choose where to invest our attention. We do not strengthen what we think about the object of our attention, though. We strengthen our intention that motivates our interest and the intentions. For example we do not strengthen the body itself when we fill it with attention; we strengthen the mood we feel towards the body. Eventually we can liberate the objects from our associations to them and strengthen the intentions at work within the object themselves, which we are usually unaware of. For example, when we see the body for what it is, a microcosm of the whole earth, this correlation, like a chord plucked in the cosmos, is strengthened. Thus our practice becomes an offering.
Trying to clarify our view of objects to understand the intention present within them is a wonderful practice. Observing how things transform from one into the next reveals the intentions of other forms, animate and inanimate, teaching us the laws of karma. Once again, this does not require thinking as we normally use the word. It does require a cognitive activity which is more like trust. Thoughts are like a film of oil on the sea. Trust is like resting into deep waves that gently touch the vast sky. The surface is still an important crossing point, but it exists in a greater context that is ever-changing. We are connected to the whole scenario around us. We can train ourselves to connect with this broader perspective through developing presence of mind, beyond our personal story. Freeing objects from our assumptions about them, so see our preconceived notions for what they are, a story, is a purification process. Who is this story about? Who is writing it? We live in a reality that is make believe, and the mind that knows this is, and always will be, completely free.
Freeing oneself from addiction requires self-compassion, because though the mind is ultimately free, untrained attention is enslaved by desire and fear, humanity’s collective inheritance. Our senses are encoded with hopes and memories of how to overcome dissatisfaction. Letting go of these attachments can be painful. Meditation can help. Meditating brings the body and the mind together and allows one to see the reflections on the surface for what they are: thoughts, feelings, perceptions related to story lines. The protagonist wants to get its fix, to be special, to control the world, to live forever. Would life be any more valuable if we were in control? Is there any meaning to this story? Beneath the world of make believe, there is another story going on, the story of intention, the intention behind the search for meaning. We are free as individuals to make meaning, but it is our intention behind the making that creates the setting for the next scene. This power to create is beautiful, but the context in which we create is also beautiful. In fact, what artist could create anything better than nature? Whose creation is that? What meaning and intention lies there?
Being honest with ourselves about our true intentions is very humbling, yet it is the only way to peace. Much of what motivates us is a misguided desire to be loved, to be seen, to be recognized as basically good. In this case, what we long for is already done. There is something other than the sea, the sky, and the veil of our perceptions. When the body feels the mind, and the mind feels the body, the tapestry of the soul is woven, but there is something else, another presence which sees the other three as one. The truth requires a knower, the observer of the observer, keeping track. This watcher is love, unconditional acceptance and limitless potential. The soul reflects the deep. It reflects the sky, but the watcher reflects the soul the way everyone longs to be reflected. Shiva and Shakti, energy and matter, have the freedom to destroy and to love as they long to be loved. Do you love the way you would be loved by another? Do you believe you are not loved that way already? Do you feel yourself being watched? Honesty is the new religion, and conscience the new god.