The Search That Brings You Back To Where You Are

Pausing on the path to happiness

I’ve just been through another exhausting period where I spent a lot of time wondering about all this happiness stuff and what to do with this wonderful life, and what a meaningful life is all about, and if I’m on the right track, plus (to make matters worse!) all the deeper psycho-spiritual stuff about the ego and the self, and if I ought to be transcending mine or just working on sorting them out a bit more, and I pretty much drove myself round the bend again for a while!

Finally seeing what was going on at the end of last week, I decided enough was enough. I stopped reading any more ‘wise’ books for a few days, I cancelled 3 appointments at the end of the week, went on an art course over the weekend, and took half a day off to go up to the mountains for a walk on my own on Monday … all of which created somethat that just can’t be valued highly enough – SPACE!

Space from our normal lives and routines and thoughts. The space that arises when we dare to cancel things, go on a trip, stop the incessant ‘input’ of more new ideas.

And with a bit of space I found that all my recent searching and seeking was bringing me right back to where I am. I realised again that I already have everything I could possible need. Yes, it would be nice to have a job that let me work with people more, but for crying out loud, I’ve got a great job!

Everything’s pretty much perfect and we keep searching and looking and wondering. And that’s essential, no doubt about it – we have to look, to start to understand. And what I understood was, that funnily enough, the greatest peace I know is when I pause on this path and look around and see that what is, is enough. There’s this house, work, family, food in the fridge, creative projects, health, a beautiful world to look at full of wonderful people….

But it does take an awful lot of searching to get back to the point where I already am, and see once again that I already have everything I need to be happy. And then I just start to trust that the rest will unfold with time, any missing elements will fall into place as I step more calmly out onto the path again.

So here’s to what is, to trusting, and to stopping every now and again to make space for wisdom to arise in our busy lives.

“James had completed 20 years of meditation practice and become a greatly beloved Buddhist teacher.  Still wanting to grow, and yearning to touch more deeply the very heart of sprititual life, he went to India. After some days of dialogue with the master [the well-known guru he had gone to seek out], James explained that his Buddhist training had offered wakefulness, compassion and wisdom, but that nothing much had been taught about grace… how should he look for it, he asked…. 

The master peered back at James and laughted, amused by the question. “You teach in a community committed to spirtital life, you have a healthy family in beautiful California, you are in India surrounded by devoted brothers and sisters on the path. Now you are sitting, speaking with the master, and you ask where is the grace?” He laughed again. “You are neck-deep in grace!” – Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy the Laundry.

 

3 thoughts on “The Search That Brings You Back To Where You Are

  1. James

    I also like Jack Kornfield a lot. I have a CD of his that I sometimes listen to from time to time on the long commute to work. His voice is a little nasaly (:)) but peaceful, too. You seem to have read a lot of the same things I have.

    In addition to Buddhist writings and writers — and really as a complement to them — I have read a little bit on the brain, anxiety, et. al. I am mulling over the idea that as awful-feeling as anxiety/worry/fear are, they are just that: feelings. Products of chemical-electrical processes in our brain. Internal, with very little to do with externalities!

    The same goes for joy/relief/excitement. These, though much more desirable, are still just feelings that are products of chemical-electrical processes in our brains. We seek joy and avoid anxiety because the latter feels bad and the former feels good. We are addicted to joy and its compadres. Some of us are addicted to melancholy and reverie as well.

    Buddhist philosophy points to a middle way, I think: clear-eyed awareness. A state that neither demands joy nor dreads anxiety. It merely takes note of both, but does not attach to either. Your ideas about seeing your life as it is, trusting it to unfold as it will, and discovering space to observe all of this, remind of this middle way. I enjoy the way you reveal it through your experiences and epiphanies you have through writing and reflecting on them. Thanks for taking the effort to post these for us.

    1. Ben

      Many thanks to you too, James, for taking the time to comment.

      Yes, it’s interesting about feelings – Buddhism talks about the ‘river of feelings’, and on a good day we are able to sit and watch the stream go by from a witnessing perspective. And we can take that further if, when for example we are furiously angry, we step back and ask, ‘who is furiously angry’? Something funny happens that I haven’t entirely worked out yet when we can step back and observe this bundle of feeling that we say is ‘angry me’ from a witnessing perspective.

      1. James

        Yes, I haven’t quite worked it out either. Maybe trying to work it out is the point? It is a perplexing perspective to try work from.

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