While meditating this morning, I found myself asking a question: How do I realign my life to more genuinely reflect the changes that have taken place? At first, my mind started chasing “what” I could do differently. I am quite familiar with that tact. Like a race horse out of the gate, it runs on with ideas. But, I know far too well that line of thinking will get me nowhere. Well, that’s not quite true; it will nurture suffering as I fail to execute the desire to do more. And, I’m not just talking about chores and responsibilities. The ideas that come to the forefront are things that I enjoy doing like creative projects.
Part of the pitfall of chasing a path of what to do differently lies in where the energy is being directed. For me, the attempt to accomplish more physically can mask an internal imbalance. My mind tricks me into thinking that if I do more, my life will be more meaningful. What’s being masked are my old friends doubt and confusion. I remind myself that there is nothing I can “do” externally that will satisfy my desire to find genuine peace and an end to suffering. That is an issue that can only be addressed internally. So, I shift the question from what to how.
As a therapist, I was trained to look for what is working amidst, what can feel like, chaos and confusion. I had to laugh. When I bolted out of the gate with ideas, it didn’t initially occur to me to pause and reflect on what was effectively nurturing my well-being. My life has changed so much over the course of the last year that answers came quickly and easily: Committing myself to a Buddhist path, dedicating myself to extending and deepening my practice, continued support and involvement with Monastics, and contributing to the sustainment and growth of a Sangha. All of these changes have created greater meaning and purpose in my life and enriched my relationship with my husband.
One might wonder: What’s the issue? It all sounds good to me. The issue is that we are complex beings, our minds are strongly conditioned to follow a familiar path without regard to consequences, and sometimes, our current state of being just doesn’t fit with where we truly are. I find myself struggling to balance the past, present, and future. Then I realize: Maybe it’s not about balancing as much as realigning. My awareness needs to be recalibrated to more appropriately reflect the changes that have taken place in my life. I no longer need to cling to confusion and doubt due to a lack of confidence and trust in my ability to live my life in a skillful manner. If doubt does arise, it’s important not to assume it’s for a valid reason other than conditioning. What needs to change is my response.
In the midst of simply wanting to enjoy life more, confusion may steer me off road as I do the dance of doubt. Yet, just because I feel unsure, doesn’t mean I need to feed it energetically by disengaging my mindfulness and crashing into a ditch. Even though it may feel like the more things change, the more they stay the same, I know better. I remind myself that the path I’m on will lead to a cessation of suffering if I allow it and if I remain steadfast with diligence and discernment. I remind myself that even though the road seems like one that I’ve traveled before, it’s newly paved. Undiscovered territory lies ahead. I can let go without discarding, be in the present without doubting, and look ahead without anxiety. I can honor my past with strength, open my eyes to where I am now, and glimpse a future free from suffering. I can realign, get out of the ditch, and back on the road to the Middle Way.
© Sallie Odenthal 2013