I’ve written ad nauseam about meditation, and you’re probably tired of hearing about it. But it is an endlessly important topic for a Buddhist, and there is so much to say. However, I had an insight, a slight moment of awakening this morning as I meditated. My monkey mind did its thing, jumping from thought to thought like a wild animal. Nowadays though, I am adept at letting it do its things. My thoughts and feelings have lost much of their juice. I don’t take myself so seriously anymore (but of course, I still take myself very very seriously.)
As I watching this anxious medley of thoughts, feelings, and sensations in meditation that I call “myself,” a voice suddenly said to me, “there’s nothing to do.” And I smiled. And I laughed a bit. There’s nothing to do.
You’re probably wondering what this means. (You’re also probably wondering if I have finally lost it, just one too many mushroom trips for my fragile brain.) Let’s put it this way, I have always needed to do something. Even the act of starting to meditate was built on desire. I started meditating because I wanted things whether it was inner peace or enlightenment or maybe just some relief from my stupid anxious thoughts. And here’s the thing, for all of my life, my existence has been built on my desires, more specifically my likes and dislikes. I wanted to find pleasure and things I enjoyed, and I wanted to run away from all the things I didn’t like. So I was always doing something to improve, to be better, to get more pleasure, and avoiding things I hated.
You’re probably saying now, well duh. Everyone and everything does this all the time. It is what a human personality is… an ego constructed on desire and aversion. But this morning it really dawned on me how it is all so stupid. Even my desire for enlightenment is stupid. Or to put it more bluntly I am an idiot who has always taken who am I so seriously. It doesn’t matter. I am just not that important.
I sat there in my meditation this morning, doing my best to stay with my breath, doing my best to practice Shikantaza, doing my best to stay present, doing my best to let go of my thoughts… and then I had an intuition. Why do? Why sit here and try to pay attention? Who was I fooling? And then my intuitive voice said to me, “there’s nothing to do.” All the striving felt silly. All the attempts to be better or more felt silly. I was complete, just an enso or mandala are complete circles. That I ever think that I am not, that I ever desire to be more is the fundamental human delusion.
Of course, the day started, and my worries and anxieties returned, and “I” returned. Suddenly I had to do return to doing. Suddenly I had responsibilities and fears and regrets and I felt alone and sad and not always whole. Such are the vagaries of human existence. Such are the vicissitudes of the modern world. But when I catch myself lost in my thoughts, I have a new lojong phrase for myself…. Pay attention and remember there’s nothing to do. Just be here and laugh if you can. It might just save your life.