Placing things in a deeper context

A person is satisfied not by the quantity of food, but by the absence of greed. Gurdjieff

If we are silly enough to remain at the mercy of the people who want to sell us happiness, it will be impossible for us ever to be content with anything. How would they profit if we became  content? We would no longer need their new product. The last thing the salesman wants is for the buyer to become content. You are of no use in our society unless you are always wanting to grasp what you never have. The Greeks were not as smart as we are. In their primitive way they put Tantalus in hell. [Advertising]…on the contrary, would convince us that Tantalus is in heaven.

Thomas Merton

Some things change, some stay the same

We often have expectations about the way things are and the way things should be. We have expectations about life, practice, and the results that we should get. How many of us are really willing to simply be aware and present with the mind, here and now, and see it clearly as it is? Isn’t that what the teaching is constantly pointing to? The cultivation of awareness, the development of wisdom, and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness are all teachings pointing to being in the here and now, and from this perspective, clearly seeing the nature and content of the mind. The training of the heart is about awareness of the simplicity of the present moment. It is refreshing and freeing to be awake and to be content where we are and with what we have.

Ajahn Sundara, Fearless Presence

When resolutions cause dissatisfaction

As we approach the end of the year we are surrounded by voices which encourage us to reflect on how we have done and make changes. While some reflection may be good, it usually falls into the “I am not good enough” category and “I should be otherwise”, a variation of the judgmental thoughts which we try to let pass through in practice. Ajahn Sumedho’s words here are the perfect response to this tendency, simply noting thoughts, even worthy ones, as thoughts, which pass away, and reminding ourselves to stay close to how life actually is, and not our judgments about it.

If you listen to yourself very much you can sometimes hear such statements as, “I should do this but I shouldn’t do that”, “I should be this way, I shouldn’t be that way,” or that the world should be other than it is, our parents should be this way or that way, and shouldn’t be the way they are. So we have this particular verb tense ringing through our minds because we have an idea of what shouldn’t be or should be. Our tendency is to try to become something, and so we set a goal, create an ideal of what we would like to become. Maybe we think society should be other than it is. People should be kind, generous, understanding, loving, there should be brotherhood and people shouldn’t be selfish. The government should have wise leaders, the world should be at peace and so forth. But the world is as it is at this moment in time and things are as they are. When we don’t understand this then we are struggling. So listen inwardly to yourselves, to the constant crying, ‘I am this way, I am not this way,’ and penetrate this ‘I am, I am not’ with awareness.

We tend to just react and take it for granted that all the ‘I am’ and ‘I am not’ is the truth. We create ourselves as a personality and attach to our memories. We remember the things we learned, we remember what we’ve done –  generally the more extreme things; we tend to forget more ordinary things. In meditation we are bringing awareness to the conditions of the mind here and now, just by being aware of this sense of ‘I am, I am not’. The thought ‘I am’ is an impermanent condition. The thought ‘I am not’ is an impermanent condition.

Ajahn Sumedho, Investigating the Mind


The end of the year: Allowing things move on may think that letting go means not having, or getting rid of something; but actually we can just allow it to go, rather than holding on to it or trying to throw it away. Sometimes just accepting and recognising is enough. It is a way of letting go of the aversion, the negativity. Like every other condition that we experience: if it arises, it will cease. And usually it ceases much more quickly if we can really let it go. Sometimes people use the expression ‘just letting be’.

Ajahn Candasiri, Simple Kindness

Just one obligation

We are born with only one obligation – to be completely who we are. Yet how much of our time is spent comparing ourselves to others, dead and alive? This is encouraged as necessary in the pursuit of excellence. Yet a flower in its excellence does not yearn to be a fish, and a fish in its unmanaged elegance does not long to be a tiger. But we humans find ourselves always falling into the dream of another life. Or we secretly aspire to the fortune or fame of people we don’t really know. When feeling badly about ourselves, we often try on other skins rather than understand and care for our own. Yet when we compare ourselves to others, we see neither ourselves nor those we look up to. We only experience the tension of comparing, as if there is only one ounce of being to feed all our hungers.

Mark Nepo, The Book Of Awakening