What causes emotional suffering? It’s the desire for something to be other than it is. If you feel sadness, you’d rather feel joy. If you feel fear, you’d prefer calmness. If you feel pain, you would choose instead to feel pleasure. And who wouldn’t prefer to feel good? But the thing is, this desire to feel good, is also what creates the feeling of bad.
Without preference between two extremes, there can be no suffering. Without preference, the polarities between two opposing emotions are neutralized. They’re rendered ineffective and harmless. Pain can become pleasurable and pleasure can become painful, which shows that they are actually one, it only appears as if they are two. But when they’re seen as one, then preference loses it’s meaning. There’s no longer a choice, because there aren’t two options.
Moreover, when emotions lose their pull over you, then you stand beyond them, and undisturbed, regardless of what they may appear to be doing. You can feel fear or calmness to their fullest, and yet accept them both equally with open arms. You don’t wish for one and reject the other when you view them as the same. Neither can affect you if you accept them both as one.
The reason why this is important to understand, is because emotions are what give false stories their allure and strength. It’s the glue, what holds them together and makes it seem impossible to break through, or to let go of. Without being gripped and carried along by emotion, an idea is just a bunch of dry words that will crumble under scrutiny.
When you aren’t afraid of feeling fear, then you can look at a story with clarity, regardless of what emotions may arise, because you aren’t hooked, fooled, or scared off from investigating the story when big bad emotions show their face. You see it as a mere little child throwing a temper tantrum, and are possibly even amused at the sight of it, rather than overwhelmed and thrown off from your inquiry into a story’s reality.
Sitting on the beach meditating, watching the waves roll in and the sun setting. I really was just wanting a peaceful experience that would fill my heart with joy and to feel one with nature. It was beautiful. It was perfect.
I was enjoying it, that is, until a couple entered the water, making out passionately with each other, and ruined my serene vista of the waves rolling in and the sun setting. Next thing you know, some parents set up camp right next to me. Their kids chasing each other screaming obnoxiously. I felt like they were all ruining the serenity of this moment!
I thought to myself, “They obviously don’t realize they’re trampling under foot the delicate beauty of this present moment!” I tried in vain to ignore their presence which I felt was disrupting the peace, which they seemed totally oblivious to.
But then it dawned on me, “Wait a second. Who am I to say that they are ruining this moment? Perhaps it’s not them who are imposing upon this moment, but me! I am saying it should not be this way, but another. I am not allowing what is, to be as it is.”
With that, instantly, I found the beauty and serenity I had been looking for. It wasn’t in the waves or the sunset, it was in the acceptance of what was happening in that moment, and not fighting it by wishing it were somehow other than it was, thinking it would be better if it were more in line with my idea of perfection.
From there, I looked at the children playing and felt joy, and looked at the affectionate couple and felt love. And it was perfect.
During the night, you dream you’ve lost your job, then your house, then your family. You’re living homeless on the street and develop a drinking problem to cope with your tragedy. But then, suddenly, you wake up in your comfy bed to the phone ringing, and your spouse tells you it’s your manager asking if you can come in today.
Do you start looking for a job, or seek counseling for your imagined alcohol addiction? Of course not! So what changed? What happened to all of your problems? When you wake, you realize it was only a dream. When you see the cause was imagined, you realize so are the effects, and simply let it go.
The same happens when we realize that this life is no different from a dream. While dreaming, we’re naively identified with the body, it’s activities, problems, and all the worry over outcomes of events. That is, until we wake up and realize these ideas had only been imagined. Then we cease being troubled by our dreamt up narratives of what happened in the past, or is happening now, or will happen in the future. We just simply let it go. It’s understood that nothing which happens in the dream, can define or affect who we are that has awakened from the dream.
“I know that I know nothing.” If one is looking for truth, then we must empty ourselves of our assumptions and beliefs. What we think we know, is the only thing which actually stands in the way. The minute we think we know something, is the very moment truth is lost. It’s an attempt to explain what can’t be explained, and then imagining we’ve succeeded. All that we successfully understood was our fabricated concept, and not reality.
To know we are clueless, is all we need to know. Only then can truth be revealed, because it isn’t something which is conjured up in the mind, but originates in the experience of simply being. Being never needed to be translated into concepts in order to be experienced. To experience is a far richer way of knowing, with nothing lost in translation.
Our being is something that’s always being experienced, and so there’s no need to look somewhere else or to some distant future to find this. The moment we give up trying to comprehend our present being through concepts, is the moment we understand it directly through our senses. Once this is understood, we’ll see that the knowledge we once thought was sacred, is just a bunch of rotting garbage, and will gladly throw it out in exchange for truth.
Can you imagine what it must be like to be a toddler? Not knowing anything, the world is a buffet filled with an overwhelming array of delicacies of which to partake. There are so many brilliant lights, colors, textures, tastes, visions of unknown faces that for some reason distort into the most amusing faces that just make you want to laugh. So many interesting sounds that catch your attention. You just want to put everything in your mouth, you want to experience everything to it’s fullest.
The world is fascinating, because it’s unknown. But soon you’re taught this is a this, that is a that, you are a you, and start making all sorts of conclusions, thinking you understand yourself and the world. Those ideas are seeds which sprout, grow and begin to compete with your natural joy and wonder.
As you grow older, that wonder is gradually replaced by predictability, knowing what each day is going to offer before it’s even begun. Though this may seem novel at first, gaining control and mastery of the unknown world, it eventually grows stale. The older you get, the more you long for the days of old, when the world was fresh and invigorating, where nothing was known and everything experienced for the first time.
What’s amusing about this, is this is how it always is. All things are always fresh and new. It’s only our ideas which give us the impression that we know something. When we think we know something, we imprison the fresh and hold it hostage, and in our grip it’s image rots. But when letting go of our stronghold on the past, we’ll surprisingly see that it’s immediately replaced by something vastly more beautiful than the stale images we had thought were reality.
Life can not be held onto, it’s forever moving, and must be experienced in the moment. The child is not concerned with yesterday or tomorrow, but with the wonder of it’s current experience. See as a child, see the wonder, see how things actually are.
Have you ever encountered a view or experience so majestic, so beautiful, that all you could do is stand silently in awe? In that moment, there’s nothing else, no worry, no regrets, no plans, no ideas, no action. All is consumed by that moment, and we’re left breathless, humbled, empty. Though empty, a quiet joyful grace fills our heart and takes the place of all that was removed, and we’re even thankful that all was taken from us. That is love. That is God.
Now imagine you’re approaching the All Mighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, however you imagine that one to be. Who wouldn’t stand in awe, in silence and humility? It’s easy to imagine that experience would be overwhelming. Yet, what if I were to tell you that we have been in God’s presence every moment of our entire life, even this very moment now, and have considered that experience as mundane, ordinary, and nothing special? Because by and large, we’ve given such little attention to this, and looked elsewhere for fulfillment.
Even if God were pointed out clearly, one would likely say: “That’s it? That’s all? That’s too simple!” Is a sunset or a mountain vista complicated? What about the laughter of a child or an embrace from a loved one? Do those experiences need to be understood intellectually in order to appreciate them? Truth isn’t found in the convoluted meanderings of the mind, but simply in the experience of being. When our stories, judgements and ideas about ourselves and the world are removed, what’s left is truth, joy, grace, love, being, God.
Contrary to popular belief in the early 1600’s, Galileo claimed that the sun didn’t revolve around the earth, but that the earth was spinning around the sun. “Heresy!”, the church proclaimed. They believed this contradicted not only scripture, but also common sense, for one could clearly see that the sun is traveling across the sky, while earth remains in place. This idea challenged the conclusions which people had drawn from a limited perspective, namely from having only viewed the sun from the position of the earth.
These days, we are not fooled by how the sun appears to rise and set, but are we still being fooled by appearances in other ways? Could we be drawing conclusions based on a limited perspective that might appear unquestionably true? Do we hold on strongly to the old ways of understanding, or are we willing to think independently of the masses, and beyond appearances, to consider that even some of our most common sense beliefs may well be entirely based on misperceptions?