Security and insecurity

There is a contradiction in wanting to be perfectly secure in a universe whose very nature is momentariness and fluidity… If I want to be secure, that is, protected from the flux of life, I am wanting to be separate from life. Yet it is this very sense of separateness which makes me feel insecure. To be secure means to isolate and fortify the “I,” but it is just the feeling of being an isolated “I” which makes me feel lonely and afraid… To put it still more plainly: the desire for security and the feeling of insecurity are the same thing. To hold your breath is to lose your breath. A society based on the quest for security is nothing but a breath-retention contest in which everyone is as taut as a drum and as purple as a beet.

 

Alan Watts

A steady center

In these days it can be just small things, like the song of a bird….

Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing. For no reason, you accept
the way of being lost, cutting loose from
all else and electing a world
where you go where you want to.

Arbitrary, sound comes, a reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else. If you listen, that sound
will tell where it is, and you
can slide your way past trouble.

Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path – but that’s when
you get going best, glad to be
lost, learning how real it is
here on the earth, again and again.

William Stafford, Cutting Loose

Stilling the continual movement

More insightful teaching on the basic human dynamics of “continual movement” beneath a lot of the suffering in the mind,  from my favourite source. These dynamics can become more apparent as exterior stimuli are reduced due to the Covid-19 lockdown and we can experience a greater interior restlessness.

We live with many options. If we get bored with looking at a painting, we read something; when that becomes boring, we go for a walk, perhaps visit a friend and go out for dinner together, then watch a movie. The pattern is that each new arising, or “birth” if you like, is experienced as unfulfilling. In this process of ongoing need, we keep moving from this to that without ever getting to the root of the process. Another aspect of this need is the need to fix things, or to fix ourselves — to make conflict or pain go away. By this I mean an instinctive response rather than a measured approach of understanding what is possible to fix and what dukkha (suffering)  has to be accommodated right now.

Then there’s the need to know, to have it all figured out. That gets us moving too. This continued movement is an unenlightened being’s response to dukkha. That movement is what is meant by … “the wandering on” – within this life, we can see all these “births,” — the same habit taking different forms. And each new birth is unsatisfactory too, because sooner or later we meet with another obstacle, another disappointment, another option in the ongoing merry-go-round. High-option cultures just give you a few more spins on the wheel.

Ajahn Sucitto, Turning the Wheel of Truth

A dark companion

I am re-reading John O’Donohue’s book of blessings these days, reminding me of the key place that hospitality had in the Celtic spiritual tradition and see how that applies to the challenging moments of life, prompting me to see if I can create a space for growth to occur:

Now this dark companion has come between you.
Distances have opened in your eyes.
You feel that against your will
A stranger has married your heart.

Nothing before has made you
Feel so isolated & lost.

When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.

May you find in yourself
A courageous hospitality
Toward what is difficult,
Painful, & unknown.

May your fragile harvesting of this slow light
Help to release whatever has become false in you.
May you trust this light to clear a path
Through all the fog of old unease & anxiety
Until you feel arising within you a tranquility
Profound enough to call the storm to stillness.

May you keep faith with your body,
Learning to see it as a holy sanctuary
Which can bring this night-wound gradually
Toward the healing & freedom of dawn.

May you be granted the courage & vision
To work through passivity & self-pity,
To see the beauty you can harvest
From the riches of this dark invitation.

May you learn to receive it graciously,
And promise to learn swiftly
That is may leave you newborn,
Willing to dedicate your time to birth.

John O’Donohue, Blessing for a Friend, on the Arrival of Illness (extracts),  from Benedictus

Start over, each moment

The gift of remembering and binding time creates the illusion that the past stands to the present as agent to act, mover to moved.

Living thus from the past, with echoes taking the lead, we are not truly here, and are always a bit late to the feast

Alan Watts