Travels outward and inward

It is no easy matter to stop short at just seeing.  Mahasi Sayadaw.

These days a lot of us are travelling, or on holidays, and come face to face with new environments or with sights of great beauty.  Breaks are good as they allow us discover a new gear between the full fast-forward at which life is normally conducted and full reverse – a kind of slowed-down,  steady pace of reflection and ease. However, sometimes the travel and the changes involved, or even seeing places of great beauty can trigger sadness or lead us into a sense of questioning or comparing the current state of our life and its history to date. This is maybe not surprising since all travel is perhaps related to our inner sense of “home”. So we notice that it is sometimes hard to just see things directly, without them setting off the continual chatter and commentary that accompanies our daily experience.  I once read Thomas Merton where he stated that he longed for some moments in which he was able to live a life without always examining it. It seems to me that we are all striving for that inner peace that allows us inhabit our lives without regret. To this end, the ascetic Bahiya came to the Buddha with the simple request – one which we all share  – to teach him the path that leads to happiness. The Buddha’s reply was incredibly simple and seems in some ways uninspiring : “When seeing, just see; when hearing, just hear; when knowing, just know; and when thinking, just think.”.  However, there is a great practical wisdom here that both points to the end result and is at the same time the method that leads to contentment. Real happiness can be learnt. It is related to the peace we get when we reduce the inner questioning and critical commentary, allowing us pay complete attention to whatever is before us, and thus live each moment fully, for what it is.

I should be content

to look at a mountain

for what it is

and not as a comment

on my life.

David Ignatow

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