I Don’t Mind What Happens

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When you begin to see life without fear, frightening things become acceptable. Or so it may seem.

At the same time, we may feel called upon to act in response to a world that is out of balance, whether it’s someone in trouble or larger harmful developments.

This world matters even if we are convinced our experience in this world will dissolve into oneness.

It’s a spiritual fantasy to believe that nothing matters, that the world before us is not real. The world is not real is the same way as the eternal inside inside, yet it functions as real in our spiritual journey.

In the late 1970s, Krishnamurti famously asked an audience whether they wanted “to know his secret.” Audience members reportedly leaned forward in anticipation. Krishnamurti quietly said, “You see, I don’t mind what happens.”

It’s one of my favorite quotes.

Another quote I love comes from Angela Davis, and it seems to say the exact opposite:

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

This twist on the Serenity Prayer is a commitment to act in the world.

These two ideas live inside me comfortably, though it took a few years to understand they are not in conflict.

We offer ourselves to the presence within. We ask for guidance, and we ask to be useful. “Relieve me of the bondage of self that I may better do Thy will.” And we surrender the outcome.

We will be okay. The world will be okay. Whatever happens. And we give ourselves over to the guidance to do what we can do.

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The Secret of the Voice in Your Head

 

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All day long, we go around with a monologue inside our head – the chatter of our thinking. Much of it includes thoughts such as: what do I have to do next, why is this or that person making things difficult, what am I going to have to eat or drink in the next? Will I be late? Am I good enough to do what’s expected from me? What happens if I lose my income? How am I going to stop this pain?

Often – if not almost always – it’s a mixture of fear and stress.

We sometimes mix the negative voice with fantasies of escape or revenge. These fantasies are not tangible nor rational enough to produce satisfying action.

The voice in your head sounds like your own, but it’s not. It tends to be a compiled rumble of childhood messages mixed with adult conflicts and disappointments. The fears and stress are enunciated in your own words and in your own voice.

On the bright side, we can replace the negative thoughts with positive affirmations or steps toward solutions. Even then, a negative voice will pop up out of nowhere. Chasing those negative thoughts is like hitting the plastic moles in What-A-Mole. So, how do you untangle this mess of unhappy inner quarrels?

Here’s a secret for the ages: you don’t have to believe in your own thoughts.

Your thoughts are just thoughts, words streaming through your head like the crawl at the bottom of a news channel. Let those thoughts be. They are not you. You don’t have to own them. They actually get quieter if you pay them no mind.

It’s a tiny thing to learn, but it’s helped me a great deal.

The Movement You Need Is on Your Shoulder

Paul McCartney tells an interesting story about the writing of “Hey Jude,” one of the Twentieth Century’s great love songs. Shortly after he wrote it, he played the tune for his songwriting partner, John Lennon. When he came to the line, “The movement you need is on your shoulder,” he said, “I’ll fix that bit.” Lennon asked why, and McCartney answered “It’s a stupid expression; it sounds like a parrot.”

At the time, McCartney thought the line was filler that needed refining. Ever the great song craftsman, McCartney knew awkward when he heard it.

Per McCartney’s telling, Lennon’s response was, “You won’t be changing that, you know. That’s the best line in the song.” So McCartney left the line in the song, and to this day, he says he thinks of Lennon when he sings that line.

Many years later, McCartney was asked what he believes the line means. He responded that it means we have the wherewithal to face and overcome life’s challenges. Bingo. And maybe the most awkward line ever in a great song is also its most meaningful line.

The line could be translated to: what we need is within us. “Hey Jude” is my favorite love song. It’s also the favorite song of my 18-year-old daughter, and she loves all of the contemporary music. “Hey Jude” is a song of immense hope and encouragement that transcends time and place.

The final answer to the song’s insistence on turning to love and away from fear is that we have what we need to “take a sad song and make it better.” It’s on our shoulder.

Great song, great line, awkward though it may be.

They Just Can’t Kill the Beast

If you quit feeding your beast, it will die. What’s the beast in your life? Fear, anger, sorrow, jealousy, anxiety, grief, depression. I could go on, but it comes down to fear in one form or another. It’s not only in your thoughts, it’s in your blood, it’s in your nervous system. We’re wired with fear, and if it’s fed, it kills us.

It’s a curse, passed on from generation to generation. We try to calm its ragged edges with alcohol, drugs, food, or relationships, but in the words of the Eagles’ song, “They stab it with their steely knives, but they just can’t kill the beast.”

This beast ruins the lives of those who feed it – the raging parent, the withdrawn and brooding child, the jealous lover, the resentful spouse, the conquering army. All of this is the beast of fear feeding on wounds that won’t heal.

The only antidote to the fear that surrounds us is not-fear. Some call it love. I’m not sure what love is, but I know what not-fear is. It’s well-being, it’s deep breath, it’s a wide open sky, it’s a bright and refreshed world each day we wake.

Courage isn’t the antidote. Courage is the ability, usually brief, to behave in a healthy, caring manner even while surrounded by and encompassed in fear. The antidote is not-fear, and we find this when we quit feeding the beast, for it feeds on us. We believe we will die if we’re separated from the beast, when it reality, it’s killing us.

We learn to quit feeding the beast by going within. When we go within, we go outside ourselves and find a world free from the beast, larger than the beast, a world in which the beast has never existed and never can exist. It’s not an escape, it’s a coming home.

Fear Was the Problem

Fear was my biggest problem. I had no idea.

I didn’t know anger was fear. I thought my anger was justified. I didn’t like being angry, but I thought I couldn’t help it. It was a natural response to a broken world and its broken people.

I didn’t know anxiety was fear. I thought my circumstances warranted anxiety. I thought the solution was to change the circumstances. The circumstances were impossible to change.

I didn’t know resentment was fear. I thought my feelings of resentment were justified. My resentments extended back many years. They produced anger, sadness, and discomfort. I was stuck with them.

I didn’t know jealousy was fear. I thought my jealousy was caused by others.

I didn’t know sadness was fear. How could sadness be fear?

The negative feelings were with me for years. I thought they were a permanent part of me and intrinsic to all life. I prayed that the negative feelings would not manifest into illness. They felt like illness. They also produced negative behavior. I worked hard to separate my behavior from my feelings. I didn’t want to behave poorly just because I felt poorly. But I did.

I tried to be positive, but I worried I was simply putting a bright blanket of untruthfulness over the darkness. Wasn’t it better just to accept the negative? I didn’t want to be phony. I took pride in my ability to face the inky black void.

All the time, I was surrounded by light. I couldn’t see it. I thought this dark world around me was the entire world. But my dark world was a delusion. I was the problem. Remove that dark me, and the world goes light. So I removed the dark me.

The Place of Peace Within

There is a place within where there is no fear and no worry. There is a place that sooths the ragged edge of sorrow and takes away loneliness. A place where pain cannot enter.

Our lives are so easily filled with hand-wringing concerns as we dash from one problem to another, never fully solving the underlying anxiety. The worry and fear just moves from one difficulty to the next.

Some of us try to calm these fears and worries with prescription pills or alcohol. Or we try to extinguish the dark discomfort through escape into TV, into food. Some use sex and emotional attachment to find relief. The respite from the pain feels real, but the rough emotions return as the chemicals wear off or the escape comes to an end. The then darkness comes back stronger.

Some try to face these difficulties straight on, believing that problems are for solving, and to some extent they are. But how can you solve regrets, resentments, or the gnawing feeling that something is not right, that some trouble is about to encompass you?

We were not created to live in endless pain and fear. We are created to live in the realm of happiness, joy and freedom. Deep on our bones we know this. And yet the pain persists, leaving us with the bitter conclusion that happiness us not possible in this broken world. We may come to believe that we are what’s wrong and broken in the world.

From this sad place, it can be hard to let go and find the presence within, that place of wellbeing that is not an escape from life’s tangles but rather a returning to the acceptance and peace that is available to all of us. It is the essence of who we really are.

In the next blog, we’ll look at ways to reach the presence.

The Tiger and the Cherry Tree

A young girl was walking through the fields when she noticed a tiger had spotted her. The tiger began to stalk her. She started to run, and the tiger hurried in pursuit. The young girl came upon a tree and scurried up. The Tiger came up to the trunk of the tree and began to climb toward the girl. So she climbed further up the tree, going out on a branch. As she moved out on the branch she was startled to see a poisonous snake.

The snake was slithering toward her. She looked behind, and the tiger was making progress up the tree. Suddenly she noticed she was in a cherry tree and there was a ripe cherry was right in front of her. She plucked the cherry, popped it into her mouth . . . and it was delicious.

What does this Zen story mean? It’s been told many ways, but the central facts are the same from telling to telling. There is danger behind, danger going forward, and the fruit is very tasty. In the Zen story, the tiger is the past, the snake is the future, and both are very threatening . However, the fruit is the present, and it is fine and wonderful.

I believe you can take the story a step further. As with the Zen lesson, there is no tiger and there is no snake, but perhaps there is also no cherry tree or luscious cherry. The cherry is part of the illusion that includes the tiger and the snake.

You can take it a step further yet: there is no young girl, for she is also part of the illusion. There is only consciousness which is neither tiger, nor snake, nor cherry, nor tree, nor young girl. All that exists is the taste, and it is delicious.