Thursday, October 29, 2009

Meditations on Impermanence

Yesterday is done. Today is now. Tomorrow is nonexistent.

How will I live my last day on earth?

Will I be annoyed at all the small things that aren't worth my attention, or will I live every second striving to be happy, to be thankful for this day and all it has to offer? To receive opportunity, we must be present here and now. I must think to the root of all of my annoyances and understand them; why they bother me and how. Buddhism teaches us that most annoyances stem from attachments, as do most thoughts, and the way to truly be closer to God (or our "Buddha nature") is to remove ourselves from these worldly attachments, because most of what we experience is a dream. And it IS a dream, because sooner or later, it ends. True reality never ends.

I wake up every morning and contemplate death. I force my mind into the idea that tonight there is a hidden deadline, at 9:27pm I will be hit by a drunk driver, or a tree might fall on me, or I will have an unforeseen heart attack and die. I prepare myself; I think, how will I live this last day? Will I eat my breakfast inside at a table, or will I take it outside and eat on the grass? Will I drive to work stressed out, or will I float along and enjoy it, knowing that even if I'm late, it doesn't matter because tonight I am going to die? If this fly is annoying me, do I want to kill it, knowing its life is as precious as mine, and I will die tonight anyway -- so why take another life with me? This doesn't mean relinquishing responsibility. In fact, if this was my last day to live, I would want to live honorably, doing everything exactly the way I have always wanted to do it -- with maturity, responsibility, and compassion. And yet everything becomes easier and more meaningful once one releases the idea of tomorrow and realizes that tomorrow is actually an illusion. In fact, in the face of death, all of the rules we live by are an illusion. Yesterday I walked right through a group of students and sat down with their Lamas, because I knew that in the face of my dying tonight, it did not matter whether or not I gave them the "awe" and "respect" they have somehow earned. And in the face of god, what have they earned, exactly? We are all equals, for we all die, and I love them and love this world in an unrivaled way that is beyond explanation. Bury your suffering in me; I will heal it.

I do not know how I came to be here, or who I was before -- but I know what I am here to do, and by living every day as a reality, as a precious day that IS my last, I will not fail or falter in my task.

Monday, October 26, 2009

There is happiness and fulfillment in every experience once we know that all things bring us to God. Once on the path, we are propelled forward at our own pace, but always forward, into the embrace of Love. May unity be our greatest destiny, though even unified, we will continue to come to this place and every realm of existence to watch, to love, and to serve. I, as a thought-entity, shall never end, and never will my love of you, and compassion for your suffering.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Spirituality for the Intellectual

Depression is a state of mind brought on by doubt, change, and the inability to adapt new structures of thought to an evolving reality. Nature is a reality that is in a continual and constant state of change. We can no more grasp a thought as we can grasp the air outside – everything moves, slips through our fingers, and eventually dissolves into something else. Even the concepts we live by and use to define our reality are only permanent in our minds – it is only in the space of a thought that we can vaguely grasp what it means to be unmoving, unchanging, and infinite. But even then, we are constantly reevaluating the meaning and application of those ideals by which we live our lives. In these cases, depression is brought on by a well-ingrained tendency to hold tightly to those pillars we built our lives upon, and a rejection of our new realities when we are faced by them.

Here, whether we caused the demise of our old, comfortable realities or not is unimportant. What we must consider is, in the sudden face that tomorrow may never come, how am I living this moment? A moment, in and of itself, is difficult to define. But in this current thought-space, what am I perceiving? What is my reality? Whose structures am I living by – my own, or another's? Are my values helping me, or hurting me? If I am a logical person and find difficulty in accepting a spiritual explanation for the hardships around me, is that mindset beneficial over the course of my existence? Is my world view correct, and why does it matter? What if it isn't? What am I afraid of?

The deepest fear of those who are drawn to (yet resist) a spiritual path is the fear of failure – the fear that after taking a blind leap into the logical unknown, there will be nothing to land on. For the intellectual, one finds oneself constantly hovering between one explanation and the next, deciding our realities purely based upon what pieces of the puzzle we can connect. However, no matter what we can logically justify to ourselves, and no matter how safe it is to believe that beyond this existence, there is nothing, it does little to change the moments by which we live, think, and experience. We must consider – when I am dead, will it matter that my understanding of reality was correct or not? In the end, it did not save me from dying, nor did it save anyone else. I am trying to differentiate between our need to logically conceptualize our existence and our reality of having to live it. Living is different than thinking. Although the two are inherently connected, we must acknowledge that they are fundamentally different. I can think many things over the course of my day, but it does not keep me from having a stressful job, an unfulfilling relationship, or a destructive addiction. Here is where logic fails the task to which we assign it. Logic saves us from nothing, and in the end, offers only questions and endless answers, to which we ask more questions. To know a truth, one must live by it – otherwise we are trapped in an endless cycle of conceptualized (un)reality rather than genuine existence. Just to have this life is an opportunity that we cannot waste. Existence ends very quickly and suddenly. Seeing as all things are destined to end once they begin, we can also reason that all things have ended before they've even come into being. We are living by a clock, and we haven't a moment to lose.

It is difficult to put all of one's heart into something that one has not tried or tested for oneself, but the only way to really begin a spiritual path is to do so blindly. Logic cannot take us down every road, because the mind is limited by its very nature – that of ingrained values and a firm resistance to change. Inevitably, an intellectual reaches a point at which all logic is exhausted, and it is time to try something new; it is here that we must stop ourselves and ask – what is so wrong about living spiritually? Why resist, when a spiritual life eventually goes hand in hand with logic (once we have adjusted our minds), and brings so much more fulfillment? Our mind can define spirituality in many countless ways, label it mysticism, dogma, philosophy, etc, but in the end, we must remember that all labels and definitions are man-made. The truth of our reality is that it was here before we were. The boundaries and structures of our world are created by minds that, in the end, are a product of a greater cyclical existence. There is safety in a definition; a definition limits something, creates a mental shape and flavor, and gives us the illusion of control over it. If one can name a creature or concept, then that makes one lord and master over it, correct? Perhaps, except when we take into consideration that everything ends, everything eventually destroys itself, and so really one is lord and master over nothing but one's own illusion.

Once we reach an understanding that reality is beyond our definition and control, and no logical cat-and-mouse is going to change that, then a certain sense of freedom arises. Instead of relying on our minds to conceptualize reality, or stressing ourselves over contradictions and feeling “eaten alive” by our own thoughts, we can begin living. The means by which we can live in ease, peace, and comfort is through kindness, both to ourselves and others. Kindness, by its very nature, is all-inclusive and encompasses everyone touched by it, both the source (ourselves), and those it is directed at. An intellectual has the habit of questioning everything – what is kindness? Is kindness real? Isn't kindness also inherently selfish, benefiting oneself along with others? Therefore, is there no such thing as true kindness? Again, logic has deceived you. Our perception of kindness is based on our definition of it. We must stop looking at the definition of kindness and more at the effects it has on the world around us. Who cares if kindness is ultimately selfish or not? Kindness -- meaning, the true selfless giving of oneself and care for others -- is something that can never be selfish. It is a good thing that kindness effects ourselves as well as others; otherwise it would be impossible to be kind, and everyone would suffer for it.

I will not continue past this idea since this article is already long enough, but I do feel the need to restate that it is not so important how we understand the world as how we live it. It is easy to get caught up thinking many things and then lead a life that is ultimately selfish, shallow, and mundane. It is also easy to get caught up in the idea that how we live is somehow “spiritual enough.” A spiritual life is a life of endless striving towards the betterment of oneself and others. Betterment – not, necessarily, knowledge, though knowledge can help if we have the discipline to apply it to our lives. It is through practice, discipline, and ultimately kindness that we find any permanent answers about life and existence. So, my intellectual friends, please be conscious of what you think and do, and the connections (or lack) thereof.

I will give you your first truth: you will die tomorrow. Now what?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dear God....

Dad's dead. We are at risk of losing our house.

Change is imminent, either way. I'm afraid that I'll never recover from this, that I'm shattered for good now, that nothing is going to come of this but suffering and misery and I will die with nothing, with no lessons, no love, and no hope.

 I don't understand anything anymore. What is the pay off? That here I am, being beaten into the ground so that some day I can experience an even higher joy? Sounds to me like rose-tinted idealization of what is, in fact, a fucked up, difficult, almost impossible situation. I'm barely a teenager. How am I supposed to own a house? And how am I supposed to sell the house where dad lived, where we all grew up together, where I felt Nirvana and where I wrote my first book, where all of my dreams have stemmed from... I don't know.

I don't know anything, anymore. This world made sense... I thought it would be gentle with me. But now I realize that maybe, without this, I would have never grown up. Maybe that's the whole point. Maybe I really would never have gone out there to become independent, and never would have stopped clinging to my dad to protect me and defend me... but I always forget, I'm only 20.

This is supposed to be scary. It's supposed to be frightening and panic-filled and overwhelming. It's supposed to seem impossible... because I need to be made to be strong enough to face the impossible, and not be afraid of it -- to face it, stare it down, and live it. I am living the impossible. I will succeed... I cannot let myself fail.

It would just be nice to have this heat wave finally break.