Not giving up

It is sometimes through times of testing that we come to know what endures.

The Zen student, the poet, the husband, the wife — none knows with certainty what he or she is staying for, but all know the likelihood that they will be staying “a while”: to find out what they are staying for. And it is the faith of all of these disciplines that they will not stay to find that they should not have stayed. That faith has nothing to do with what is usually called optimism. The faith, rather, is that by staying, and only by staying, we will learn something of the truth, that the truth is good to know, and that it is always both different and larger than we thought.

Wendell Berry

The difference between effort and struggle

Struggle happens for all of us, so it must have  a place in the scheme of things, but I for one have spent way too much time struggling for what struggle can never accomplish. For struggle is not the same as effort — what is sometimes called “right effort.” We all need to make an effort in every area of our life …Life doesn’t just provide us with food and shelter as a natural right. Effort is a natural exertion of the personal will toward a specified end. 

But struggle is an added push that is born of fear. Ultimately, it is born of the fear of not surviving, of dissolving and disappearing, not just as a physical form but as a psychological self… Struggle will never get us the things we want most – love, meaning, freedom from anxiety, contentment with ourselves exactly as we are, imperfections and all. For these we need another way. That way begins and ends in surrender, in letting go of our resistance to life as it presents itself.

Roger Housden, Dropping the Struggle: Seven Ways to Love the Life you Have

Seeing what troubles our natural calm

After a certain amount of sitting, the world looks brighter, sounds are sharper,

and there’s a richness of sensory input,

which is just our natural state if we are not blocking out experience with our tense worrying minds

Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special 

Offer no resistance

Sometimes you do your best but you are met with mistrust, or things don’t quite work out as planned: 

Somebody says something to you that is designed to hurt. Instead of going into unconscious reaction and negativity, such as attack, defense, or personal withdrawal, you let it pass right through you. Offer no resistance. It is as if there is nobody there to get hurt anymore. That is forgiveness. In this way, you become invulnerable. You can still tell that person that his or her behavior is unacceptable, if that is what you choose to do. But that person no longer has the power to control your inner state. You are then in your power — not in someone else’s, nor are you run by your mind. Whether it is a car alarm, a rude person, a flood, an earthquake, or the loss of all your possessions, the mechanism is the same.

Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now. 

Being joyful in an uncertain world

The last sentence in this quote has become quite famous as a way of navigating the inevitable ups and downs of this life:

All life is sorrowful; there is however an escape from sorrow; the escape is nirvana – which is a state of mind or consciousness, not a place somewhere, like heaven. It is right here, in the midst of the turmoil of life. It is the state you find when you are no longer driven to live by compelling desires, fears, and social commitments, when you have found your center of freedom and can act by choice out of that. Voluntary action out of this center is the action of the bodhisattvas – joyful participation in the sorrows of the world. 

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

Don’t rush to interpret what is going on

We like to live in our heads – our thinking minds – and we presume that this gives us the best information about the world, However, our refuge should be in moment-to-moment direct sensing of experience. We are patient, not  rushing to interpret or make judgments as to how our life is going: 

The instruction and teaching of the actual body is the harbour and the weir.

This is the most important thing in the world.

It is beyond explanation

We just accept it with respect and gratitude

Dogen