Tuesday, October 9, 2012
In his book, A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle tells an ancient Sufi story about a king who occupied a Middle Eastern land. He was constantly vacillating between happiness and depression and despondency. He felt torn and stuck as the smallest thing would provoke some sort of intense reaction or upset. When he decided he couldn’t deal with his problem any longer, he sent for a wise man. When the wise man arrives, the king told him, “I want to be like you. What can you give me that will help me have balance, serenity and wisdom? I am willing to pay whatever price you require.” (This kind of sounds like a lot of people I know. “Give me the magic pill and I will pay anything. Just don’t ask me to do the work.” Do you relate to this guy?) The wise man replied that the price would be steep, quite possibly greater than your entire kingdom. The king accepted the terms. “Yes, I want it.” (So far, so good.) The wise man went away to return a month later. At that time, he handed the king a beautiful jade box which held a simple gold ring. On the ring there was an engraving which read,”This too will pass.” (Now we get to the hard part.) The king was irate. “What does this mean?” The wise man offered, “Always wear this ring and no matter what happens, before you name it good or bad, touch this ring and read the inscription. That is how you will remain balanced and serene.” (In other words, he would have to give up judgment and drama and discipline his mind – a high price, indeed.) So you can see that the price one must pay to remain balanced, wise and serene is to be willing to let go and remember that in this transience world, “this too will pass.” Many are not willing to pay this price of remembering this truth, opting instead to react to every little thing with drama, emotion, and intensity. Of course, the idea behind the edit, “This too will pass,” is to become non-reactive and non-resistant to events. Things do happen and we can choose to react or not. We can experience goodness and expansiveness of life when we stay in the moment without resistance, simply accepting what is. Thus I hand you an imaginary ring on which is inscribed, “This too will pass.” It is yours. Wear it in your heart because once you accept the transience of all things and the inevitability of change, your attachment to things minimizes. Instead of identifying with conditions and things, you let go and learn to flow with the present moment. I am describing the principle of non-attachment. It allows you to enjoy the pleasures of the material world while they last and without anxiety about the future. Learning to be non-attached things, people and events helps you live a life of freedom and enlightenment. It opens a new dimension in your life. It is like having inner space. When you release control, choosing not to hold on to things as you want them to be, you are allowing movement and fluidity in your life. With freedom comes the ability to connect with the stillness within – the deep “peace that passeth understanding.” You move out of your “chattering,” thinking mind to a deeper inner space of peace. You can honor the things of the world without giving them the importance they don’t really possess. When you connect with your Inner Self and the peace that resides there, you can enjoy all things -- people, experiences, material things, without getting lost in them. (They no longer own you.) Viewing the world from the point of view of the impermanence of form can make it a frightening place. That is when we despair over the loss of this or that. We clutter our minds with worry, anxiety, and past and future obsession. This is mental clutter that blocks out our Inner sense of peace (just like the king). Mental clutter consists of obsession over objects, things to do, things to think about, control, worry and anxiety. It is the clutter of continuous thoughts, one after the other. To move beyond this chaos, spend some time watching the night sky, observe a baby sleeping, listen to expansive music or pay attention to the rhythm of your breathing. These things take attention away from thinking and help you develop quietness. When you are reacting and upset about an event, the real cause is NOT the event or person but a loss of perspective about what is happening. Spending time with yourself in the stillness can provide the perspective you need.