I recall utterly cherishing vacations as a child. Getting away from home and “normal life” was the most wonderful feeling! Even now, the sense of “leaving it all behind” for a few days — even a few hours — can be as much of a high as it ever was.
At one point I began to wonder why this was? I reasoned within myself:
- When I am on vacation, I am free of obligations and everyday pressure
- I am under no obligation to worry about the immediate future, or concern myself with past events
- I am free of the everyday stresses and expectations, free of the tedious and mundane
- Indeed, when away from the “norm,” I am also typically away from physical indicators and reminders of the past or future
- I am left with only the task of enjoying the present
- In short, when away from normal life and work and obligations, I feel free to be…free.
When I came to this understanding, I realized I had to somehow live life as if I was “on vacation,” even in the midst of the everyday stresses and obligations; at that point, however, I just could not see how that could be possible!
This calls to mind the Buddha’s Four Types of Clinging:
- Attachment to sensuality– “the fundamental desire for gratification, pleasure and stimulation. The sensual hit that seems to make life worth living… the belief…that seeking gratification is better than doing nothing.”
- Attachment to views– “the tendency of the mind to seek out a viewpoint or opinion where everything is clear… Now everything is safe and comfortable for me… The Buddha is pointing to our tendency to seek security, peace, well-being and happiness in our views and perspectives.”
- Attachment to “to rules and vows, to precepts and practices that one assumes will lead to purity.”– “The idea of ‘I’m doing the practice’ gets in the way of being attentive to what’s happening in the heart and mind.When we are attentive, we can actually do the practice and enjoy it, delight in it and benefit from the results.”
- Attachment to self– “The self has a function, but we get caught up believing in the story or even the doctrine of it, which then creates havoc. It’s important to recognize how the sense of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ insinuates itself all the time — craving and clinging around the feelings of ‘”I” need to have this, it has to be this way for “me”.'”
So, when we are attached and our mind runs to these clinging tendencies, we find ourselves invariably tangled up in the cares and woes and activity that all come with the engaging of our thoughts in these things. Not only that, but we then have no choice but to view our circumstance through the eyes of a mind that is running madly to and fro, from past to future, from excessive planning to obsessive reminiscence… Our Ego begins to tell us just how it is. And we naturally take its side of the tale, and begin to act upon it.
A Parable for you (a second story of shoes!):
There was once a young man who grew up running. He was born to run and ran everywhere he needed to go. One day, a fellow on the way took pity on the Runner’s rough, calloused feet and offered him a spare pair of shoes he had with him. The young Runner thanked him and put shoes on for the first time.
He was impressed by how well the shoes protected his running feet from the sharp rocks and stones that typically cut up his soles. But, after only a short time, he found his feet hurting because of the smallness of the shoes’ size. At last our Runner could not stand wearing them any longer. But, having experienced now the wondrous protection that shoes offered to his lifestyle, he began to actively seek out a pair that would fit his feet perfectly.
It took some doing, and more running, but he eventually found a pair that fit. And so he ran, continuing on his way. However, as he ran, it occurred to him that he could surely find an even better pair of shoes than these, possibly ones that felt softer and gave more cushioning. And so he ran in search for a better, more comfortable pair.
At last, he found a most comfortable pair of shoes, and he enjoyed running his merry way in them. But within a short time, as he observed the folk of the villages and along the roads he passed, he thought to himself, Surely, his shoes were not on par with the elegance and artistry of the shoes worn by his fellows! And so he ran, in search of a pair of shoes that were the epitome of fashion and comfort.
At last, his search and endless running was rewarded, and he found a pair of beautiful, well-constructed, comfortable shoes that fit his feet. He was very happy and proud in his running! As he continued to run, however, he began to consider and plan for any unfortunate events that should come his way and cross his path. He decided, I must find another pair of shoes equal to mine, should these shoes wear out and he be left wanting.
He finally found a second pair equal to the perfection of the shoes he currently wore and was satisfied to carry them with him on his Running. But as he ran, he began to worry and fret, for what if some renegades should see his lovely pairs of shoes and attack him and steal them from him?
And for all this, it never occurred to the young man that he could simply stop running…
Now, envision the Running Man in our parable as our Mind, and I think you’ll see the connection.
There is a similarly fascinating tale in the Gnostic Scriptures, from the Exegesis on the Soul, depicting the Soul as a woman who leaves her Father and goes whoring, only to later repent and desire to be with her Father again….
What does “the sons of Egypt, well-endowed men” mean if not the realm of the flesh and the senses and the things of the earth by which the soul is defiled in this world? She receives from them bread, wine, oil, clothing, and the other external stuff surrounding the body, the things she thinks she needs… They were speaking not just of the prostitution of the body but especially that of the soul. (The Nag Hammadi Scriptures, pg 229)
When the soul — or the personality of our minds — goes running after the things of this life, we are attached and living in both the Future and the Past, instead of the Now.
Have you ever inadvertently tried this experiment? While driving on a long stretch of road, focus your peripheral attention wholly on either the clouds above…
…or on the mountains surrounding you…
…or on the stretch of empty landscape on all sides…
…or, better yet, glanced at the black pavement directly at your side?…
What happens emotionally when studying such areas around us that appear to be practically stationary in relation to the vehicles speeding down a highway? For me, I immediately gain a sense of connection and smallness… A realization that the clouds, the mountains, the landscape all exist in the Now regardless of the crazed happenings and speeding about below…
Gazing at the pavement directly beside me, rather than on the busy-ness ahead of me, grants a very real and tangible contrast to the experience of living in the Now versus in the Future… (Not that I’m suggesting you should drive poorly!!) 🙂
Do we worry about what’s up ahead, fill our minds with the anticipations and constant planning for all What-If scenarios we can possibly concoct, so that we feel prepared and ready for anything that may come our way? Or do we center our minds on the Now, apart from clingings to the past or anxieties for the future? After all, how many times have we “planned ahead” for the most minute and mundane possible future happenings, based upon faulty assumptions and storytelling from our Ego? Take, for example, the girl who falls in love with a boy at first sight and imagines their whole life together from first date to marriage and children, all in the imagination prior to even speaking her first word to him and finding out anything about him! She has built a truth upon which she will likely base her actions, from the stories of her Ego.
(Keep in mind, “this is not a moral or ethical statement. We Westerners may add the belief: It’s a bad thing, I’m a bad person for doing that. But the Buddha is just pointing for us to look at the result. If happiness and freedom is what one is looking for, does clinging to sensuality bring about the desired result?” –quote source found here— Keep yourself from judgements, and only observe…)
Thinking about the clouds floating above chaos, I am reminded of what is called the Witness State, or as I liked to sometimes think of it, the viewpoint of the Observer. The Observer is our higher consciousness simply observing the thoughts passing through our minds, the feelings rushing through us and tousling us about, and it only takes note of it without emotion or judgement… As it is said, the rain is sent on the just and the unjust… The clouds likewise “roll ever on,” remaining passively and pleasantly aloof to the speeding of the cars on the highway below, the inflamed traffic jams, the emotions, the noise, the clutter…. Still they look down from above and observe, and roll ever on… They are in the Now….
- In the Now, we can see clearly…
- …we can see apart from the judgments and the erroneous storytelling of the Ego…
- …we can tap into the knowledge and wisdom of the unconscious and the All-Consciousness…
- …we actually seem to gain time (a funny little thing about Relativity and Time)…. Remember how time felt like forever as a child? And now with all the responsibilities of adulthood it seems to slip past us…
- …in fact, often when dwelling in a complete sense of the Now, time seems to have stopped: for there is no past or future, only Now; and when the mind lives and exists solely in the Now, it is no longer hampered with fears and anxieties, nor even simply the sheer activity of engaging itself in multiple “planes of time” at once! It is free to take in and comprehend freely and without preconceptions or prepared, anticipatory judgements all that exists Now…
- All of these factors add up to bring us better decision-making time and resources, and thus greater peace overall…
Heaven is peace… Heaven is eternity… Heaven is timelessness….
Heaven is Now… …and the Now is Heaven.