Moving towards the shortest day of the year this week, dark mornings and evenings. Very wild and wet again overnight. Easy to see that life is constantly changing, going up and down, with both darkness and life as just natural parts of the overall whole.
Everything — every tree, every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings, buildings, the animate and the inanimate — is always changing, moment to moment. We don’t have to be mystics or physicists to know this. Yet at the level of personal experience, we resist this basic fact. It means that life isn’t always going to go our way. It means there’s loss as well as gain. And we don’t like that.
I think of Gloucester, blind, led through the world To the world’s edge by the hand of a stranger Who is his faithful son. At the cliff’s verge He flings away his life, as of no worth, The true way is lost, his eyes two bleeding wounds– And finds his life again, and is led on By the forsaken son who has become His father, that the good may recognize Each other, and at last go ripe to death. We live the given life, and not the planned.
Wendell Barry,A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997
Living in a world focused on what is outside us, and not looking within, we are taught from a young age that we need to become something more than we are right now. We are encouraged to always be doing: we must learn; we must buy; we must acquire and achieve. And for absolute certain we must become better than we are right now just sitting here doing nothing. The Buddha taught the opposite. He said that by learning to let the mind be, just as it is right now, all our good qualities can unfold from within.
When you are identified with your mind, you cannot be very intelligent because you become identified with an instrument, you become confined by the instrument and its limitations. So, use the mind, but don’t become it . . . The mind is a beautiful machine. If you can use it, it will serve you; if you cannot use it and it starts using you, it is destructive, it is dangerous. It is bound to take you . . . into some suffering and misery . . . Mind cannot see; it can only go on repeating that which has been fed into it. It is like a computer…Remain the master so that you can use it; otherwise it starts directing you.
Humility is the greatest freedom. As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your peace of heart. As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadows of other people, you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities and there is no joy in things that do not exist.