“If, by forsaking a limited ease, he would see an abundance of ease,
the enlightened man would forsake the limited ease for the sake
of the abundant.”
~ Dhammapada 29
“When things go wrong, don’t go with them.”
~ Elvis Presley
“Seek no intimacy with the beloved and also not with the unloved, for not to see the beloved and to see the unloved, both are painful.”
“Therefore hold nothing dear, for separation from the dear is painful. There are no bonds for those who have nothing beloved or unloved.”
~ Dhammapada 201-211
I am spending some time this week on a small island eight miles off the coast in the Atlantic ocean. Day-trippers come, people on boats, families, wedding parties—it’s busy and bustling with expectations of beach days, good waves, and summer memories. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to note the wanting mind, my own and others around me. This is a fundamental practice for releasing ourselves from the bondage of our thoughts through seeing wanting and not wanting, the two sides of tanha, often translated as craving.
It is more common to think of craving regarding something we ingest, some delicious food or drink. We don’t often think of craving as not-wanting. But not-wanting can be as painful as wanting. We crave peace and quiet and are irritated and dismayed with the unwanted noise and crowds. We crave the perfect weather for our vacation week—and take the rain as a personal affront. We may long for in-depth conversations that re-establish long-ignored connections and feel frustrated when we don’t feel understood or listened to. We may crave the smell of wild beach roses and a breeze to cool us. While there is nothing unwholesome about having a preference or enjoying our experience, the problems begin when we attach our happiness to the fulfillment of this wanting, especially if it is something beyond our control.
When our happiness rests on the fulfillment of our wishes by another or any external conditions we are as the Buddha describes “fettered.” True freedom allows us to chose our own internal weather and returns our own self-authority despite external conditions. In the Dhammapada, the Buddha is quoted as saying:
“Encircled with craving, people hop round and around like a rabbit caught in a snare.
Tied with fetters and bonds they go on to suffering, again and again, for long.”
The snare is the desiring mind that moves towards and away from what it wants and doesn’t want. All this chasing of perfection, in reality, is exhausting and unfulfilling work and even if we do crack the code and find the perfect moment, the perfect breeze, the most delicious food, the just right person to share it with—it doesn’t last. Something always keeps changing.
So how do we get free? The first step is to notice with a gentle mind this phenomenon that we have in common with all living beings, wanting ease. When we can offer ourselves compassion and understand our desires as strategies to keep us safe, cared for, or viewed in a certain way we give ourselves the opportunity to be present with what is actually unfolding right in front of us. Showing up, fully present at this moment can delight us in ways we never imagined. When we loosen our grip on our desires, sometimes we find that there is beauty and perfection enough—without the struggle. When we release the control around how things should be, we can experience trusting our abilities to meet the demands of our realities.
A benefit of trusting ourselves is that we may find some unexpected delights when we let go of our programmed agenda. Today we saw seals floating out by the North light, the complex mosaics of the rocks in tidal pools, and there was an adorable yellow warbler ruffled by the waves. This island is still hot and humid, still full of vacationers with big expectations and expensive flip flops, but there is also a choice. The question I am asking is, “is it enough?” Is this ocean enough for me to find beauty? Is this person I am with delightful enough? Do we have enough value, enough time, enough life? The more I consider this, the question changes and becomes, “Can I be enough for this moment?” Because this moment with all its complexity and interwoven conditions is already enough. This moment keeps offering me innumerable opportunities and possibilities, but only if my mind is open to let in the possible.
May we all trust our light,