You are the Path
If you are someone that knows me…or perhaps reads any of these ponderings….you would likely know that I spend much of my time examining my thoughts/heart space, dismantling my sense of ‘self’ and attempting to see all of life from as many perspectives as possible (without my brain exploding).
I don’t practice any of this as a form of nihilism or self deprecation…..but as a path towards not being controlled by my attachments, to grow more deeply in open-hearted compassion and broader awareness.
I live with a fully intact personality and trove of opinions that can burst on the scene at any time, but they dwell side-by-side with this practice.
For me, the most important commitment is to love others and myself without any conditions or judgment. (Authentic love comes as the foundation and then after that are all the opinions and personality.)
Generally, it’s my own fears or smallness that gets in my way of this. I have found that the more I explore this ‘path of me’, the more available and free I am to love without constrictions.
Why would we ever withhold our love or think for one moment we are ‘better than’ or ‘not as good as’ someone else? And yet we are prolific at doing this very thing. Each day we experience divisive thoughts based on: social standing, education, economics, physical appearance, gender, evaluative comparisons……on and on.
So yes, my curiosity seems to continuously boomerang back to: Why not love our selves and others fully, without conditions? Why engage in the knee jerk human patent of judging one another? What gets in our way of creating a life that embraces that we are all fundamentally equal, yet diverse, without exception?
I am always finding new doorways to explore this practice and recently I have had a few ‘new’ doors present themselves. One of them has been this thing we call ‘death’ (and the never-ending maze of personal attachments we base on our perceptions of living.)
I have had the honor of spending time with a good friend as he goes through the transition from this physical world: to converse openly and with our mystified soft hearts about this life, the transition of energy and perceptions.
He was amazed to witness for himself the gradual shift in how day-to-day moments could feel so different, the challenge of having his once strong physical body not be ‘his own’ anymore, the journey to let go of copious attachments and the ability to see from new spaces in his heart/soul/energy. This time with him has afforded me new opportunities to examine a few more standard foundations that affect my every day thoughts. More specifically, our linear relationship to living, aging and apprehension/denial of our own mortality.
It has offered new prisms through which I gain insight and follow my curiosity in this laboratory of me.
Along with this, I have started getting to know a person that lives within the local transient/homeless community. Having conversations about what has changed for her since becoming ‘homeless’, the tangible shift in how people treat her and my own sense of ‘us/them’ while being invited into their circles……..
Both of these experiences in different ways have been potent in demonstrating the lines we draw and perceptions we cling to sometimes. The need to feel safe or comfortable even if that means choosing to shy away from examining these defining judgments, the status quo script or beliefs about self and other whether due to life circumstances or our own mortality.
I find myself surrendering more and more to how little is ‘certain’ in our lives (even with these days and routines that might unfold as expected or planned). We all know there are ‘no guarantees’ in this life and yet we invest a lot of time and energy towards trying to control and bend this ‘truth’ as much as we can. This can potentially look many different ways: the eye cream we dab on to ‘prevent’ aging, the gossip we speak about other individuals, the material objects we surround ourselves with, the inner voices that declare we are somehow not ‘good enough’ or the small untruth we tell in any given moment….
We have so many movements of the mind enabling us to sidestep this possibility of the unknown and all that we cannot control or predict in this life. So many inflexible or stylized thoughts we use to maintain our position on the map of living …..to somehow offer a guarantee of where we place in the scheme of things. No matter whether they are subtle or strongly apparent….we are running these scripts daily.
It seems that we don’t often greet the uncertainty of living (which can feel threatening) with open arms. Instead, we often try to manipulate or distract from it. We become frightened by the unknown open space of questioning and feel vulnerable to the varied ‘truths’ in each moment. There is much more comfort and safety in trying to control ‘reality’ and shape it into the existing (inherited) images that we already have of the world and ourselves. This might create temporary relief from the uncertainty that is inherent in being human……but ultimately it is just a tool we all use to create more comfort and accommodations.
(and just to be clear…..I participate in forms of daily control and distraction and can thoroughly enjoy the time I spend there…..but for me it is about finding a balance and an awareness of what I am choosing and why. I have no hard and fast lines or judgments about any of this…..just curiosities)
It seems that if we seldom participate in a practice of examination and questioning, we come to believe we (or others) are whatever arises in our conditioned minds. We have gotten so used to looking outside ourselves for ‘answers’ that we have forgotten to be curious about who it is that’s doing the looking.
If we are willing to investigate the spaces in between our thoughts we might discover a relationship to uncertainty that begins to feel more comfortable. We might fully witness the vast energy we exert to conform our lives to an ‘acceptable’ version of the image we desire….. and then choose to utilize that energy in different ways.
Yes, we have such incredibly intricate and compulsive responses in the mind……. but it is within this complex web that we can find a vast and rich resource. We don’t seem to realize that the raw and layered material of ‘us’ is the path. You can learn from any teacher or teachings……but I feel that to truly find wisdom and compassion…….you must discover yourself. Because you are the ‘truth’ and no one else can take you there except for you.
Yes, all these teachers/teachings have left us road maps but ultimately you must travel that road yourself and ask questions along the way. Each person’s path is unique and at times you will need to improvise, but it is a mystery only you can discover.
It reminds me of a story about a student and a Zen master. The student approached the Zen master saying ‘I have come to learn THE path’. The Zen teacher sat for a moment and replied with loving emphasis, ‘You are the path’.
When we begin to recognize that so much of how we experience life is a reflection of the mind, then each experience becomes an opportunity to discover our dance with this process; The actions, opinions, and thinking that we use to shape our sense of safe reality, the attachment we have to ‘knowing’/control and the lack of compassion / kindness in relation to self and other when immersed in these attachments.
Each moment we get to choose what version of theater we would like to engage and if we want to perhaps take a peek backstage. Understanding with greater depth what lies behind curtains can offer a broader experience of the magic. We never arrive at a final act or answer but we get to continuously be present in the open space of uncertainty with a welcoming breath.
I have no new sharing of tools as I close from these ponderings. My practices are ones I have previously offered that I find help me to cultivate awareness and humility…….
After I click ‘publish’ I will continue to sift through depths where my conditioned mind and personal perceptions make for entertaining theatre. The theatre that is me, you and the world around us. The subjectivity of it all……….
I sometimes feel like a puppy trying to catch its own tail. Circle upon circle and eventually I sit down, take a breath and continue my spiral dance later with new vigor and delight. All these words and they don’t ever seem to come close ….to this journey of living.
Take care and thanks for connecting…….