Letting go of the ideal to work with the now

File:Downpatrick sunset (01), September 2009.JPG

One thing that I am getting used to being back in Ireland is the changing nature of the weather, which varies from day-to-day and  even a number of times during the day. Yesterday was a lovely warm, sunny, day,  with a beautiful sky at sunset, while today the sky is hidden behind grey clouds with the prospect of rain later. I was talking with friends in Switzerland who are going through a period of very hot weather, and immediately my mind formed the idea of the “ideal” summer, with constancy and reliability in the weather. However, nice as that would be, one advantage of changing weather is that it allows us practice with letting go of ideals and “shoulds”,  and moving with how things actually are.  This is a good training in letting go of the “push-pull” dynamic of happiness which is ingrained in us.  We seem to alternate between “pulling” – wanting some things that are going on in our lives (or in others’ lives or in an idealized version of our life) or “pushing away” –  not wanting elements of what is happening to us at the moment. Real happiness comes from stepping out of that dynamic, from waking up to to the root cause.

Here are some thoughts from Ajahn Sucitto on how to work with the way the mind likes to form ideals – the weather, the ideal day, the ideal way our life should be –  which can become judgmental  and oppressive. He suggests the development of  a working philosophy of “good enough”, and argues that this cannot achieved through thinking alone, but in a balance between the head, the heart and being grounded in the body, here and now. There is a kindness in approaching life this way, which is often lacking in the thinking mind. 

Not feeling good enough is a true experience. Something’s wrong. But you don’t get good enough through following the idea or the ideal or those performance-driven drives that cause you to fragment. Good enough begins with being whole, with the heart, head and body senses all in the same place. So you enquire: is my body with me now? Is my heart unwilling? Resisting? Or settling into being here? How do I free myself from self-criticism and feeling inadequate? And to look at the topic in another light – where would that self-respect come from? That has to be a relational sense; which is a heart sense, not my thinking mind. The problem is that we mostly orient through the thinking faculty. And for this faculty absolutes and ideals are easy. You can think in terms of absolute right and wrong. You can conceive of the perfect person and the perfect society. What you can’t conceive of in any clear and definite way is what is good enough. The thinking mind can’t grasp that one.  It’s only realizable through the heart faculty.

Ajahn Sucitto, Good Enough

photo ardfern

2 thoughts on “Letting go of the ideal to work with the now

  1. I’ve always loved the changeable (both seasonal & daily) weather of the Great Plains for the very reason you speak of here: you have to pay attention to Right Now & its possibilities.

  2. I particularly like this post. I read a book recently which is Buddhist inspired and is helping me immensely in dealing with/managing my MS. Its called How to be Sick by Toni Bernhard. In it she talks qbout using “weather practice” when we are feeling uneasy with the way things are, not berating ourselves for feeling this way but leting ourselves feel it, trying to think of it in terms of the weather, ever changing. 🙂

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