Buddha taught us that attachment is the root of suffering.
Our attachment comes in the form of not accepting and being present to the reality of our life in each moment. We are attached to having our life be different. We yearn for times of the past, or hope for moments in the future, yet we miss the beauty in each moment of NOW.
Yet life challenges us. It beats us down and confronts us and we look to the sky and shout “why me?”
This is the EGO speaking. This is the EGO, or SELF attached to the concept that our lives should look different for the individual SELF. The suffering comes from thinking that we are separate from the whole. Let’s look further at what this means.
We are not this body that we carry around with us, it is simply luggage carrying our vibrant, divine energy in this lifetime. A placeholder along the path. Yet, we live are lives with a finality for this body and this lifetime. You can see it how we treat the environment, or other people and living beings. Our context, our view of our life comes from a ME centric standpoint in how can we better ourselves and our immediate world. In this context, we miss the connection with all living beings through this Universe and the next. We miss that we are just passing through in this physical body and that nothing is permanent. We are attached to the game of this physical, superficial world. When we do this we do not flow with life. We hold on and grasp to how things should be. We scream “why me?” or oppress others all to benefit our physical self in a lifetime that is simply a blip, a blink from the divine. Our attachment stagnates our growth and keeps us from flowing with life.
When thinking of the concept of flowing, think of a river with the water passing by. The water does not oppose a log in the river, nor the curve in the bank; it passes by indifferent. Every moment in a river is a moment of now, the water flows by and each moment is a snapshot of a moment of NOW, each moment new. If we were to step in a river we have connected in this particular moment, a bridge in time between our relativity of time and the river. Yet, each time we step in the river it is a new river. This is life. It is not static, nor can we control it. We come across our own rocks, and logs and bends in our life, and life flows past, every moment is new. Trying to stop the flow of life is like trying to stop the flow of the river or time itself, an exercise in futility and suffering. Resisting the flow of life is attachment and it is suffering. We cannot find peace and love within ourselves until we understand acceptance, until we understand letting go and flowing with life.
Flowing with life is with all moments. I refrain from calling them good and bad moments as they are just moments. We may be wealthy one day and poor the next. We may have our family one moment and the next they are gone. Grasping at what was, and resisting the flow imprisons us to the physical realm of this body, and an EGO centric world. This is true for times that are difficult but also when we are pleased with our life. Often we want to cling to this time, to these moments and hold on with a death grip even though the life flows past us.
There is no peace in the world of attachment, it’s short sided and creates a world of “not enough”. In the world of not enough we are always searching, always looking for more ways to satisfy the EGO in our minds – more money, more superficial things, more gain for the personal self. The world of not enough is an endless pit where we never find the treasure. The EGO can never be satisfied, it is only in removing the EGO and the illusion of the individual SELF that we find our universal connection with all living beings. In this unity we find the value of all life, where one life is not prioritized nor more important than the next. In this universal connection the concept of “why me?” does not exist as we are connected to the whole. Events in our life just as in the life of all living beings just happen, there are no directed lightening bolts thrown our way. There is simply a what’s so with all life. Reacting or trying to change it is not going to make a difference as it simply is what’s so in our life at that particular moment. Accepting life’s events as they come to you, positive or negative is flowing with life.
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
Positive or negative the farmer flowed with life. He stayed in the moment of NOW, he refused to cling or attach himself to events in this life.
This can me challenging as the mind wants to keep us in the world of ME or the EGO. It wants to question why things might be difficult, or why the illusion in why the Universe conspired against only ourselves. I personally have lost jobs, been divorced, lost all of my superficial wealth, been given days notice on the end of a job and become homeless, loved ones with life threatening illnesses, or dying without warning. Yet, as my mind wants to wallow in pity and suffering I understand that this is life and we all go through it with our own challenges. Who are we to judge? Everyone carries pain with them it is what we choose do with this pain. Do we let it go and accept it exactly the way that it is? Or do we hold onto to it and hope for something different. Whenever something challenging in my life happens I simply say “Is that so?” These three words are my salvation from clinging to the way I wish things would be in my life. These words are my art of flowing with life.
These words come from a Zen story titled the same name : Is that so?
It is a story of a well respected Zen master by the name of Hakuin who lived in a small village in Japan. One day a young girl in the village became pregnant and her incensed father insisted she name the father of the child. She named Hakuin as the father and as word spread he lost his reputation. As Hakuin heard the news he simply responded “Is that so?”
When the child was born the girls parents brought the child to Hakuin to take care of him. Hakuin took in the child to raise and simply said “Is that so?” After a year of taking care of the child the mother finally confessed the truth of who the real father was of the child. Her parents came to Hakuin and confessed that they knew he was not the father and took the child back to raise. Hakuin simply said “Is that so?”
Peace and happiness come from flowing with life. Many challenging and horrible things happen to people. Yet these events do not define us, we choose life in every moment. Each moment a step into the river, fresh and new, the past washed away bring a new moment of NOW. A life that flows unattached without resistance, in peace and harmony.
Is that so?
Thomas D. Craig
Love. Inspire. Unite
*Note: I wrote a modern day fable of the Zen story Is that so? called Is that so? A Modern Day Fable of Awakening about a young man forced to choose life in the face of many challenging circumstances.