When we’re anxious, restless and dissatisfied, seeing that iconic figure of the smiling Buddha sitting in stillness can be inspirational, encouraging us to take a moment’s pause… to breath… to relax. That experience of peace can bring such relief from the familiar contracted, clumped up, disquiet of living that we may want to hold on to it.
So we try to emulate our spiritual teachers who seem to have got ‘there’, and go to work on cultivating and establishing a permanent ‘state’ of peace and happiness. Out of our dense, coagulated discomfort we carve a shrine to stillness; and there we sit in meditative concentration to shut out all the turmoil. But no matter how hard we try, our shrine walls have a habit of collapsing in, exposing us once more to all that unwanted agitation. And so begins our personal struggle, fighting to reclaim that hallowed ground of tranquility whilst being continually swept away by the irrepressible force of life. We may try harder and harder to stand our ground, become more and more disciplined, put in more and more effort, super-effort, until finally we grow weary of all the struggling and come to a point of absolute despair.
This hopeless moment is our greatest gift!
Why? Because we finally give up on a struggle that can never be won. For despite all our spiritual talk about not manipulating life in any way and allowing it to be ‘as it is’, dividing our feelings up into the ones we want and the ones we don’t want is the greatest manipulation of all.
And what is at the root of all this manipulation? The need to escape discomfort, because of the conviction that we’re separate, isolated and under threat.
But it’s this very conviction that gives rise to all the discomfort from which we’re trying to escape!
All that unwanted agitation seems like a pack of hungry, howling wolves we’ve been struggling to keep from the door. And in our hopelessness, with no other way to turn, we finally dare to let down our guard. As the wolves rush in we feel the full onslaught of our self doubts and criticisms, our deepest fears and resentments, our tortuous memories and chronic resistance; feel the invasion of all that we could never bear, that we’ve been pushing down our whole life, all rising up demanding to be heard. And lo and behold, right there, in the middle of this energetic maelstrom, we discover that we’re still here, still alive, maybe more alive than ever before! That who we really are is like an edgeless container, within and out of which all these intense energies are arising and dissolving; that is in itself unscratchable, unscrapable, indestructible.
To who we really are those viscous wolves are made of paper and offer us no threat. In fact they are never our enemy but only ever our dearest friends, howling their loudest to wake us from the dream of believing that we’re separated off from life ‘out there’.
As all that contracted, clumped up energy finally finds its long lost voice and releases into our boundlessness, so too does our need to segregate life. And in the wholeness that remains, we understand for ourself the deeper meaning of that icon of the smiling Buddha:
True peace and happiness are not ‘states’ we need to try to hold on to, or cultivate; but the nature of what we already, effortlessly are.