Sometimes I go about pitying myself
and all along
my soul is being blown by great winds across the sky.
image: Hiroki Suzuki
Once again I realize that nothing (repeat: nothing) lasts. Neither a momentary sensation, nor any feeling, thought, sight — and certainly not a life. Everything is in constant flux, revolving, unfolding, disappearing, and emerging. How easy it is to forget (refuse to remember?) such basics. Duh!!
Why, for example, would I get depressed; feeling as if there’s no purpose or hope, that life has lost meaning, that there’s no reason for getting out of bed, that nothing could possible make me laugh again. And then, a few hours later or the next morning, everything’s changed. I look out the same window as I did yesterday, see the same houses across the street, the same kids walking to school, the same flag flapping in the wind — yet there’s no weight on my heart. I see what’s there and attach nothing to it. No sadness, no despair, no disappointment. No good or bad. Simply thusness as Buddhist teachers name that which defies naming. The best I can figure right now is that my ‘small self’ desires order, wants something firm to hold on to. A delusion, apparently.
Shakyamuni Buddha once asked his disciples “How long is a human life?” As none of them could find the correct answer, he explained that “Life is but a breath.”
image credit: Gene Kelly, poster, source unknown.
As I mentioned to Nathan (in reply to his comment of yesterday), if we do the right thing and the stars are aligned just so :-), we may be rewarded for our efforts. No guarantees, alas. In our little family the day began with lightness, freshness in the air as if after a summer rain, much laughter, and eye-to-eye conversations. A rarity, I always thought, but there it was: we got along just fine. It was if my outburst of yesterday relayed my heart’s desire for acceptance, that we listened to each other in a deeper way, and that my apology smoothed feathers and brought us close.
The thing with all matter, especially relationships, is that nothing lasts. Impermanence is a fundamental understanding in Buddhist practice. What I can do is rejoice in the lifting of weight and at the same time watch my step (in thoughts, words, actions) carefully. Who knows what mood or topic pops up at the next turn — and calls us to be mindful again and again?
“Grant that I may be given appropriate difficulties and suffering on this journey so that my heart may be truly awakened and my practice of liberation and universal compassion me be truly fulfilled.”
Tibetan prayer, in Kornfield, J. (1993). A path with heart. New York: Bantam, p. 73.
image (top): photos.somd.com
How is it, I said as we sat in the café’s morning sun, that I pay such attention to bad days — days when things aren’t going my way — but barely comment on days when everything’s more or less okay, when nobody get on my nerves, and my mood’s on the upswing? From time to time you’ve written about not believing your good fortune, my friend replied, but yes, on the whole, good days get pretty much taken for granted.
I heard the word equanimous for the first time 15 years ago while participating in the first of several 10-day Vipassana retreats taught (via audio and video recordings) by S.N. Goenka. It sounded foreign and had many syllables; the best I could make out from the evening lecture was that if you practice equanimity (some kind of non-attachment) to the good and bad things in life you’d reach contentment. A quick etymology check reveals that equanimity comes from Latin aequus “even” and animus “mind, spirit.” Even mind, a certain imperturbability, regarding what comes my way; not preferring one over the other; clinging to neither good nor bad.
Interesting practice! Come to think of it, isn’t that the essence of meditation: observing thoughts, emotions, feelings, and sensations arise and fall away; bringing attention to the neutral breath and watching all that stuff float by — like an angler at the river bank, letting flotsam be flotsam.
image (bottom): democraticunderground.com.