Sunday, March 14, 2010

dabbling with gravity and who you are

A few weeks ago I had coffee with a friend of mine who is religious. He explained to me what he gained from faith, and how it answered his questions about the point of his life. I listened to him intently, because he seemed to have the conviction and purpose that I want. (I hope this isn't sounding too sanctimonious. Are you there, God? It's me, Carolyn.)

I have no interest in promoting a religious viewpoint or ideology. I have never felt impassioned by a desire to impart religion or faith on someone. I do love to hear other people talk about it, though. My friend asked me what I was looking for, and I told him that I didn't really know, but that I didn't think that I could answer any of the questions that I have or find their meaning in another person or experience.

I want an alleviation to confusion and meaninglessness. I don't need an outlined purpose, but just the knowledge that everything is leading somewhere. That there will be some sort of resolution and that my efforts are not completely misguided. If you read anything I write, you might have noticed this feeling. I think about it a lot, and it sometimes takes away from the satisfaction of daily life. It really does.

When I explained this feeling to my roommate, she gave me the book Buddhism Plain and Simple. She said she thought I might get something out of it, and that it wasn't really a religious manual but a method of thinking and viewing the world. She said that some of the things I've written about, like wanting to be able to experience the nuances and perceptions of entities other than myself, were goals of Buddhism.

I felt a surge of relief reading the book, because it started by describing the dissatisfaction and resistance that I felt must have been written for me specifically. I could only really do it justice by putting the entire book here. I won't, though- I chose some of my favorite passages so far. Rewriting them was cathartic in and of itself. I wish I could write about the increased clarity that I am feeling reading it, but it's hard to describe. To me, a lot of it is about making every challenge and every moment a part of your life, and not willing time to pass or waiting to overcome a certain obstacle to be happy. It's about finding meaning in a constant flux of sensory perceptions and ideas rather than trying to mold experiences into a static construct. It's about letting your mind be influenced by life going on around you, and embracing the fluidity of time instead of trying to crystallize it.

If you don't become the ocean, you'll be seasick every day.
Leonard Cohen

I don't know if this is a solution. I don't think it's that easy. But it's definitely a start, and that's really what I wanted.
This is Right view: you must have at least a glimmer that there's something difficult, askew, painful, or troubling about human existence.
Ordinarily, when you step on a path, you're going somewhere. You start on it, traverse it, and if all goes as planned, you arrive at your goal or destination.

The path to freeing the mind is not like this. This path neither begins nor ends. Thus it's not really a path to somewhere.

Furthermore, the moment you set your foot on it, you've already traversed it in its entirety. Just to be on this path is to complete it. I mean this literally, not symbolically or metaphorically.
But first you have to step on the path.
The fact is, Reality doesn't need to be explained. Indeed, it's the one thing that doesn't need explaining. Truth and Reality are self-evident. What's to explain regarding thus- regarding the world as it actually is? What can we say about thus that doesn't remove us from it? The moment we try to capture and encapsulate Truth, we have paradox, confusion, contention, doubt, and strife.
We make this mistake repeatedly- and we only rarely notice we're making it. Instead, we search for an ever more detailed, complex, and "accurate" form of encapsulation. But what purpose does it serve to deny actual experience in order to run with an idea instead?

You're fully prepared for anything that might come along. Each of us has the power to simply be what we are, with nothing extra added. Nothing's lacking; nothing's missing. You are supported and sustained, right now, even though you may not yet realize it (or realize how). To completely end your unease of mind, all you need to do is see that there is nothing really nothing "out there" to get because, already, within this moment, everything is whole and complete. In doing so, you can awaken from the perennial confusion, from the existential angst, from the unanswered question of what life is about.

Your very own body and mind are also precious, because they're just as fleeting. They're changing- always, in every moment. In fact, you're nothing but change itself.
Let's examine this closely for a moment. It's easy to see that you don't have the body you had when you were a small child. Nor do you have the same mind. If you look carefully, you will notice that you don't even have the same body and mind you had when you turned to this page a few moments ago. In those few seconds, many cells in your body died and many others were created. Countless chemical changes took place in different organs. Your thoughts changed in response to the words on this page and the circumstances around you. Thousands of synapses in your brain fired thousands of times. In each and every moment, you changed.

To forget the self is to remember that we don't exist alone, but in relation to other people, to other creatures, to the planet, and to the universe. It is to focus not on ourselves as a force in charge of the manipulation of others, but on how our lives interpenetrate those of others- and, indeed, all the activities of a dynamic universe.

Steve Hagen, Buddhism Plain and Simple

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