These are the things we can contemplate. We can’t control what arises in the mind, but we can reflect on what we are feeling and learn from it rather than simply being caught helplessly in our impulses and habits. Even though there is a lot in life that we can’t change, we can change our attitude towards it. That’s what so much of meditation is really about—changing our attitude from a self-centered, “get rid of this or get more of that” to one of welcoming life as it is. Welcoming the opportunity to eat food that we don’t like. Welcoming wearing three robes on a hot morning. Welcoming discomfort, feeling fed up, wanting to run away. This way of welcoming life reflects a deeper understanding. Life is like this. Sometimes it’s very nice, sometimes it’s horrible, and much of the time it’s neither one way nor the other. Life is like this.
A painter or a musician, a composer, when they create a piece of art, they always sign their name. You also. You produce in your little life, the thinking, the speech and the action. If your thinking is the right thinking, that is a good work of art. It bears always your name.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Mindfulness of Anger
Consider the lilies of the field,
the blue banks of camas opening
into acres of sky along the road.
Would the longing to lie down
and be washed by that beauty
abate if you knew their usefulness,
how the natives ground bulbs
for flour, how the settler’s hogs
uprooted them, grunting in gleeful
oblivion as the flowers fell?
And you — what of your rushed and
useful life? Imagine setting it all down—
papers, plans, appointments, everything,
leaving only a note: “Gone to the fields
to be lovely. Be back when I’m through
Even now, unneeded and uneaten,
the camas lilies gaze out above the grass
from their tender blue eyes.
Even in sleep your life will shine.
Make no mistake.
Of course, your work will always matter.
Yet Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.
Lynn Ungar, Camas Lilies
Things are not as they are seen,
nor are they otherwise.
The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.
John Berger, Ways of Seeing
Our sense of beauty
and our understanding of the nature of the good life
Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness