The Simplicity of Life

Searching for the meaning of life, ultimate reality? Thinking of going into a monastery because life is too tough? What do you think the right path to truth may be? There must be some special, mystical, hidden secret teaching or school out there that will bring you to liberation of the suffering and confusion of life, right?

Be where your body is. That is where you will find Truth.

That’s it. So simple, and all there is to all the practices. It is hard to accept that this is all there is considering all the books and teachings and such long discourses and programs and years of study and practice. The reason for all the teachings and practices is that it is so hard to be present that we need to remove all distractions and be forced to do nothing but pay attention to our breathing and sense every cell within our body. The body stores like a computer, every emotion and subjective view you possess. Every event that shocked you or formed your way of thinking was registered physically in the cells of your body, and there the fears and hang-ups permanently reside.

Be where your body is, be present. Not in the past, not in the future, not desiring what you do not have, not avoiding what you do have, just be here right now and accept the present reality as it is and what you have to deal with right here and now. Not trying to make the present reality into what you want it to be, but to accept it as it objectively is. See and accept the objective truth. In living this way, you will cease to form new fears and negative emotions and reactions. Not only will you stop forming new ones, but by not creating new, the old automatically gets washed away. It is similar to not eating. When you stop taking in new food your body uses up its storehouse of fat reserves until they are all gone and nothing is left.

So simple, yet so difficult to attain. But you do not have to go to a monastery to attain it, as a matter of fact, the odds are that if you take that path you will avoid it. There are a few people who are capable of the monastic path and you can very quickly know if that is you or not with even a tiny bit of introspection. And if that doesn’t work, take 2 weeks in a retreat waking up at 4:00 am and meditating 12 hours a day and you will quickly find if you want to follow that path or not. Obviously, if you follow a way of life that is not fitting to your nature, then it will create more harm to yourself.

Truly, the path of a normal person with family and business makes it virtually impossible to attain to total liberation. How can you, with all those things you love, desire, are responsible for and are attached to. The path is for total detachment, total, everything. That does not mean not to love, but not to be attached. Even if you did desire to pursue the path of liberation from suffering, if you where capable of achieving total liberation in this life, you would not be searching as you are right now, you would already be on the path. And there is one very tricky thing about enlightenment, the more you want it, the further away it gets. Buddha said; “Give up all desires, including the desire for enlightenment.”

Of course that desire has to go, because even if you rid yourself of all other desires and repulsions, if you desired enlightenment, that would be a desire and you would still be tied to desire. And remember that a desire is not only to acquire something you do not have, but also there are the desires to avoid things you do not want, pain or seeing someone you dislike and so on.

Now question what is your goal, what do you really want in your life and stop fighting it. In accepting it and learning to live with the present reality in each moment, you will find the both. Find a work you enjoy, something to be useful to your community. The greatest pain is often felt by people who are lonely, if only I had someone to love all would be well. Well, you know that is not always the case. How often in a relationship someone is wishing to be alone. The other big problem in life is money. If you do not have, you want, if you do have, you worry about making more, protecting and keeping what you do have. Either way you worry.

Think not of the desire, but of the reason you want that which you desire. What will it give you, seek in all your desires to find what it is you really want. In a relationship, we feel needed, loved, useful, we have someone to do things with and for. In our work or lack of, we have a need to feel that the work is serving some purpose, some cause, not just digging holes in the street then filling them just to keep busy. Serving a useful purpose is the main desire behind all other desires that go beyond material things like new cars and toys. Even those though, in a way have the same root cause. If you have a nice car, you have to take care of it, polish it, maintain it. You are responsible for it. Then you can drive around and people will look at you and desire to be with you so they get pleasure riding in your car. Again, you are of service in giving pleasure to other people as the end result of wanting a nice car and your desires of being wanted are foolishly fulfilled for a short while. But what a long and difficult route it is to get to such a simple place.

Meditation is the practice of mental concentration, that simple. Why develop concentration? To be able to focus on what your body is feeling and keep your mind in a state of observing objectively. Why be aware of the body? Because as putting your hand on a hot stove gives you a reaction that tells you to take it off, so the emotions and other senses react within the body to give you the indicators of what you are feeling and reacting to mentally and emotionally. Often we do not know how we feel in a given situation. If you where able to feel all the sensations going on in your body, you would know.

By being aware of the subtle sensations that the body experiences when you are in traffic, talking to someone, friend or enemy, anything and everything, the body is reacting and creating your subjective view of the situation. Once you see how you are reacting, then you can change it. If you do not see what is happening to you, you will not feel the pain and your hand will be destroyed in the fire that you are unaware is burning you.

If you see your reaction, then you can take steps to consciously step back mentally by realizing you are reacting subjectively, and then observe objectively. When you attain to a total objective view of your self and your responses and reactions to all situations, then you will be completely liberated of suffering, fully enlightened.

So how to practice if you are not on the path that puts you in a monastery is the question. Very simply, to pay attention to everything you do and how you are feeling, emotionally and physically. Be fully aware at all times of your mind and the sensations throughout your body. When you are having a problem with something, observe the sensations then remember that little saying; “This too shall pass.”

And at the same time, observe and see if the problem you are having is due to your not accepting the situation. When a couple break up, one takes it very bad. Why is it so hard? Because the person does not want to accept the reality that they are no longer in that relationship. We get so overwhelmed in subjective views that we suffer to no end. The reason is that when you are being subjective, you forget about reality. Reality is that each moment that passes has passed, and that for each moment that passes, a new one is on the way.

If you go to a movie, you can walk out before the end because someone else may have told you the way it turns out. But in our real world, no one knows for sure what tomorrow will bring. It could be worse, and it could be better. If it is worse, there will always be another moment coming after that, which could be better, and vice versa.

The enlightened happy peaceful person knows this is the law of nature, reality of our world. This person sees all things in that temporary state, that all things are in flux, moving, and that each moment brings a new state. After all, what can you expect from living on a planet moving through space at 2,187,000 kilometers an hour taking into account its rotation speed, orbit around the sun, sun through the galaxy and so on. What do you expect to remain the same for one second!

In accepting what you do with your life, and in whatever happens, which does not mean that you should just float along and be a dishrag, rather that you do your best at all moments but to accept the outcome or present situation and deal with the reality of that, not what you want it to be, but what it is.

As a Zen monk in Japan said to me; “Some of us are meant to be monks, some are meant to be businessmen, some to clean dishes and so on. Do what you are good at, meditate 30 minutes a day, and every day make someone smile.”

Total liberation from the sufferings of this life may not be possible or probable for us all, but it is possible for each one of us without exception to become a very good person. And in that, to be rid of suffering.

This is where each of us has the potential to significantly alter the quality of our life for the better and permanently. Simple qualities such as attention to details, consideration of others, being aware of what you are doing or saying and how that is effecting other people, these are simple things that anyone can do and will transform whatever you are, even if you already are a very good person, into someone a bit more refined.

This refinement of our character is to me the goal of human life. By doing our best to improve in any way we can, and there is no yard stick to that amount, from here to there and anywhere in between. One persons life is independent of another’s, there is no comparison or competition.

The key is to realize that how you treat other people and the world, the environment or the land around your home, will change how you feel about yourself and your level of happiness and contentment. The attitude that whatever you do effects you and only you is not true and brings plenty of sadness. That belief puts you in a position of isolation since it twists your core belief about your world to one that you are alone in. If there were others in your world, then of course you would have to pay attention to them.

Think about that for a while, the loneliness that so many people feel is stemmed from the belief that whatever you do effects you and only you. This is where consideration of others and that includes objects that belong to others since those objects represent the time and effort someone put in to acquire them, changes your level of happiness.

When you consider others that are around you, whether you know them or they are strangers, considering the consequences of your actions (like pushing in front of the old lady crossing the road in a rain storm may knock her over), you will find a warmth filling your heart that was previously left painfully empty. The emptiness of loneliness from being in a world where no one matters, and that includes you.

Everyone matters, your actions effect people all the time. Take a week and live with this thought and then read this again. Even if you agree with what I said here, do it anyway for the fun of it, I am certain you will find an interesting result.

“Our Purpose in life is to help as many people as we can, but above all, do your best not to hurt anyone. And if you do, apologize.”

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One Response to The Simplicity of Life

  1. Andy October 30, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    I have often found the complexities and seeming variety of teachings to be almost overwhelming. This article is great because it really shows how, while the many paths are valid, everything all comes down to the same thing and leads to the same place.

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