When we spend more time in the virtual than the real, we begin to identify with the fake world we’ve created, a world in which ideology and human egoism replace nature. When we step back into the real, there are huge consequences. They are subtle and psychic, but vast.
In a culture obsessed with acquiring and holding on at all costs, this all seems like a real shame. But time and impermanence are only enemies if we view them as such. Imagine making gravity your enemy, despite it being a much stronger force than you and an inevitability here on Earth. You’d live in constant frustration. “Why can’t I fight gravity?! Why isn’t my will strong enough?!” We must make peace with the things we can’t change. We already tacitly make peace with countless other immutable forces, why not do the same thing with time, death and impermanence?
Westerners learned about karma and perverted it. Classic, right? Karma is not this idea that you will be ‘saved’ in life for adhering to culturally acceptable values inherited from now-obsolete religious traditions. But karma is the fact that this action will have a consequence. That’s all it is. When we meditate, we step back a bit and see the direct consequences of our actions. Over time, we learn to adjust ourselves toward reality rather than living in a world of delusion. Don’t be a nice guy. Don’t be a moralist. Don’t be an altruist. Don’t avoid conflict or confrontation. Do what is honest and mindful, not what you think will get you praise. Zen mind is about strength and discipline, not indulging in petty false values just to get through the day.
…fulness and spiritual practice, though, is that we learn to subdue the pendulum swinging altogether. We recognize what lies beyond the simple dualism or dialecticism of this back-and-forth. This comes primarily from the realization that all conceptual thought is false. It only feels true to us to the extent that it a. provides us a framework through which to view the external world and b. is confirmed/denied by experiences in the real world. We must recognize that the truth is not what we believe, but what we experience. What we believe can never be the truth, since it exists purely in its relation to what we experience. We can believe experience, but we can’t experience belief.
The only way to find balance and gravitate towards the center is to embrace the perpetual struggle between practice and experience. In the controlled atmosphere of meditation, keeping your cool is easy. In the real world, it’s significantly more difficult. It’s easy to shrink one’s world to meet the confines of inner life. The true challenge of the path is finding a healthy compromise between the insights we uncover in controlled meditation and the situations we experience in a massive world that we cannot control.
This has been an important turning point for me in my practice, particularly when I feel I’ve made certain strides and yet still push up into conflict with people, things and events in my world. When we meditate, our only responsibility is to meditate. When we enter the world, however, we must be be respectful, disciplined, and hold ourselves to a certain standard of conduct. Mindfulness means being aware of this in each moment and behaving in accordance with the flow of things, not against them. We must learn to be open to the world instead of trying to force the world to be open to our own rigidity.
We live and die alone. This isn’t depressing, contrary to what Hollywood sap stories would have you believe. It’s simply the truth. In learning to be comfortable with yourself, you stop seeking affirmation from others. Without needing affirmation, you can love and interact confidently, naturally and unselfishly. The secret is in the breath. Let everything simply come and go.
The great challenge for modern people, moving ‘forward’, as they are so stubbornly obsessed with doing, will be swinging the pendulum back towards spiritual submission to the sacred rather than this horrific mass worship of the profane. The former is achieved through meditation, lovingkindness, temperance, virtue, discipline, honor and communication. The latter is achieved through indulgence, striving, competition, sexual obsession, and fear of dea…
Just look at the USA these past few weeks. Half the country believes the other half to be a bunch of evil racist idiots. And that half believes the other half to be a bunch of spineless wimpy losers. How can we hope for a truly free society if we are going to castigate our own countrymen just for disagreeing with us? The whole point of freedom is letting people who fundamentally disagree with each other live together in peace. Tolerance is a compromise. No one ever gets to have their cake and eat it too. I hope more people can recognize this and come to terms with their differences.