Despite the long days and the daily grind I’m still mediating in the early hours. Lately, though, I don’t feel like I’m “getting anywhere” which, I suppose, is part of the path. I sit and let my thoughts come as they may, and I bring my concentration back to my breathing and the sounds of the birds singing as the sun comes up. It’s not easy — certainly not as easy as you’d expect — but with practice it becomes an interesting exercise.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on impermanence — that anything compounded is subject to change and, by definition, decay. At first it seems disturbing (and a little frightening) to realize that nothing will remain as it is in the present moment; but, given a little time, it’s actually comforting to know that each moment is simultaneously a birth and a death.
I was thinking how so much suffering — from the one-on-one relationship between two friends/partners/spouses/whatever to the many (and varied) political and religious movements currently trying to impose their respective views on those who don’t follow a particular system of beliefs — and I realized that the problem is that these different (and, in many cases, opposing) groups all are frustrated by one main thing: why can’t what I want and believe become the way things will be, now and forever?
I’m not much of a political analyst and I’m no religious scholar, so I’ll refrain from offering my personal speculation on any one or another; instead, I will comment on the interpersonal dynamics of why two (or more) people just can’t seem to get their collective shit together:
- Lower your expectations, folks. Pretend that you’re not imagining the person opposite you is supposed to adhere to some ideology you have in your own overactive mind about what you think will be a conduit to everlasting happiness because they have a nice face, say the “right” words, have a certain amount of money in their bank account or pray to the same invisible man/woman/spaghetti monster that you do.
- Kill your TV. A lot of your unhappiness is delivered to you in the form of (bland) shows, mediocre movies and (worst of all) magazines that chronicle the BMI of someone who gets an obscene amount of money to read/sing a bunch of words that someone else wrote. The images will make you feel like your life is dull, that you are ordinary and that if you think about something hard enough it will suddenly appear in your life. There’s a big difference between the laws of cause and effect and “The Secret”: you will reap what you sow but it may not always be what you expected.
- And, lastly for tonight (because it’s late and I have zazen at dawn), try and remember that the world around you isn’t your personal playground, that people aren’t toys and that everything you do (or don’t do) affects at least one other person. And in the case of politics and religion, the ultimately pointless task undertaken by a very small handful of people to impose their ideology on a large number of both skeptics and believers, it can bring misery to many and fleeting satisfaction to a few.