This is a long one about equanimity so feel free to jump in or scroll on past at this point :)
One of the questions that has appeared in various emails and chats is how do we go about making decisions in life from a point of equanimity?
One very important thing about equanimity is that it is absolutely not apathy or indifference. It isn't just being an amoeba or an emotionless jelly on a plate and letting life bash you around.
Im not a Christian but I think that the serenity prayer in the christian faith can be useful here - I have left out the first word which is God, you can replace it with whatever works for you, universe, deep wisdom, or keep God if that works:
'grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.'
The serenity in the first line is equanimity, let me be equanimous or calmly accepting of the things I can't change. We can't necessarily change the way a friend acts with us, we can't necessarily change where we live every time it annoys us or the neighbours kick off, we can't change the political view of everyone that disagrees with us. Simply put we can't mould the world to fit our narrow view of how it should be. So let us find serenity in that understanding and acceptance that comes from it.
The second line can be confusing, as it might sound like it is implying we should have the courage to change everything else that we want to. Yet what can we really change? Any change that we make is fine but ultimately it will only be temporary in its effect. Soon enough something else will unsettle that calm or relief we feel or maybe the change we make will not bring about the results that we wanted. Maybe the change makes things worse?
So the only single thing that we can really change is our own outlook, our own reactivity and our own response. That demands great courage because there is a degree of submission/ faith / trust in there and trust is what we don't have.
We are so certain that we need to change the world to keep us at peace with ourself, to trust to leave it and allow it to flow (because ultimately we don't know the long term effects of any change we make) requires enormous courage. Or simply to trust that we can make a change but not know the results likewise.
It reminds me very much of the zen proverb about the man who tries to cover the world in leather to protect his feet. Instead all he needs to do is put leather on the soles of his feet. He only needs to change himself as the experiencer, not the experience.
But there is certainly, in this prayer and in Buddhism and Advaita for example, no suggestion that we shouldn't make any effort to change things. We have the freedom to choose, but remember that also lets us know that we have the freedom to not try to change certain things and allow them to be. The choice is there.
It is the final line that speaks to our gut instinct, our deeper wisdom - the wisdom to know the difference.
This line is key......when we understand at a deep level that our happiness or peace has never, can never and will never be derived from external states, experiences or objects, only from our own outlook, then only at this point can we stop reacting to the whims of 'I dont like this, I do like that' and start make wise choices about whether the effort to make a change is useful or not.
Am I simply reacting? Is this change I want to make based on the misguided idea that it will bring lasting happiness? Will that happiness really last? Or will a similar situation arise again in the future?
And this is important - if you undertsand that there is no certainty in the change you make AND can be totally free of the fruits of your decision, then it is a good change to make:
If I deal with it now and confront it with wisdom and clarity then the fruits of the action will always be wholesome. Whether the fruits turn out to be a perceived worse situation (you tell a friend some truths but they take it badly and never talk to you again) or whether the fruit turns out to be perceived better (you tell a friend some truths and they have an epiphany about their actions) we must be totally willing to accept that the result could be better or worse than it is now. There is no way of knowing, but the choice to act was a pure one, not blinded by misunderstanding.
I want a bar of chocolate, I have the freedom to buy it or not. There is no guarantee that it will bring happiness, maybe I keep buying it if I give in every time the whim appears and I become unhealthy or have a heart attack, maybe I choke on a nut in the chocolate.Or maybe I eat the chocolate and just enjoy the eating of it and leave it there? If I feel the urger ot then buy a second bar because I think it the enjoyment will grow then I might be misguided! If i think my morning coffee will always be an enjoyable ritual, I am misguided.
On a larger level maybe you move home because somewhere else appeals to you, great do it, but not because you believe it will make you happier, you might end up with awful neighbours, the place might get burgled, you have no idea. Likewise the place and town might suit you way better, or at least for a time. Make the change but dont pin ultimate happiness on it or you might get a nasty surprise.
We approach living here with that view, every day I thank the invisible whatever for plonking us here, but at the same time I see that it could also be a total nightmare, there is so much to maintain and that won't be possible when we are older or if one of us gets ill; if one of us had an accident it would take an ambulance forever to find us and so on. The place has no inherent happiness about it per se, only what we lend it. So if we lost it tomorrow, then c'est la vie. It would be a shame and a headache but not the end of the world.
I hope that is useful elaboration on a very tricky topic
Self talk is a concept used in various therapies to explore the way in which our internal monologue shapes who we feel ourself to be - or more specifically - our external behaviours and belief in our potential. For example negative self talk might be associated with low self confidence, self blame or limiting our ability to achieve our full potential. In contrast positive self talk might make it more likely that we achieve our potential and see events in a positive light.
These therapeutic approaches are as valid as any other, however from the way that I work with the mind, these concerns are already a long way down the line and by the time you are exploring the ramifications of this type of self talk, the horse has already well and truly bolted.
From my experience and understanding, the most significant type of self talk is the language that we use internally which subtly but very powerfully, creates an idea or concept of what we are not who we are.
This might sound confusing...aren't they the same thing?
In a nutshell ....nope. Haha
The former version of self talk assumes that we are a particular person, Dan, or Gemma or whoever that might be, along with the thoughts, beliefs, feelings, body and so on that are somehow 'owned' by, or which somehow 'make up' the person in question. The internal self talk - positive or negative - then further 'fleshes out' the person - literally adding extra depth or complexity to this character.
The thing is that almost every Eastern tradition at least, Buddhism, Yoga, Vedanta sees this as a huge misunderstanding. They believe that we have already made a huge error in establishing what we are. In other words, that Dan, Gemma or whoever is just an idea that we accidentally give more and more weight to.
We might compare it to a sculptor making a human model. They begin with a huge ball of clay, then, slowly adding clay here and taking it away there, by shaping it and forming details a very lifelike figure appears. Over time we might forget that ultimately the sculpture is simply the clay - we have forgotten all about the clay because we are so fascinated with the details overlaid on it.
So from my point of view, the positive and negative self talk is a bit like the details on the clay figure - just more stuff that appears to be significant but ultimately causes me to overlook the very first question - what am i underneath all of this? Because if i never understand that, then I will always feel somehow incomplete, like something is missing in the jigsaw of my life - and that is how most of us feel - like there is always a detail missing, something we cant put our finger on.
This mistaken identity is subtly reinforced by that very same internal language - 'I am thinking' 'I am seeing' 'I am sad' 'I am hungry' - but through use of language we are mistaking ourself for various objects or experiences. We are personifying thought, personifying emotions, personifying hunger. But take a step back and we clearly see that we are not those things, we are simply the knowing of those experiences.
It might be more accurate to say 'I know hunger' or 'l know thinking' but still here we are subtly placing a boundary between us as this mysterious entity and the knowing as something that this entity does.
Again that is a turn of phrase that doesn't help. Dig deeper and what you will find with enough silence and observation that really - all that I am is the knowing of experience.
You might even shorten this to simply 'I am the knowing'
Once we clearly see this and experience it - and I'm not suggesting that is going to happen quickly - all of the negative or positive self talk in the world will become totally irrelevant. We will see that we can become the greatest achiever, more wealthy, popular or whatever but it is just tinkering with the details of the created self - what is often talked about as ego in yoga, Buddhism and so on.
The ego, however doesn't really exist and never did, it was just the patterns and shapes made in the clay.
If there is one thing I could suggest to help people working with a new or existing meditation practice its 'stop trying so hard'.
Ultimately meditation develops the understanding or realisation of what we really are rather than what we imagine ourselves to be. Yet to be what we really are takes no effort at all
Imagine you were pretending to be someone else, you'd have to put a lot of effort into maintaining their accent, characteristics, physicality and so on. To keep that up would be quite exhausting.
Yet that is what we do with out entire existence.
You could say that who we think we are seems to begin with the arising of our mind. Yet way before mind arises there is already something there.
Before thoughts, perceptions, conditioned ideas, before memories (thoughts about thoughts) before anxiety, worry, joy. There is something that we clearly know to exist.
That's not really a correct statement though, because the 'thing' that exists before all of the above, isn't a thing in the sense of all other things that we know. All other things that we are aware of, that we experience, are what we call objective experiences.
They are objective because the qualities that they seem to possess are projected onto them by the observer, by the subject.
Be it a thought, a pair of trainers or the conditioned idea of a holiday, They are only 'loaned' a reality by the knower of them. One person may like the idea of white trainers, another person has no liking for them, a butterfly sees something to land on with no nutritional value, a dog perceives something to chew up. The 'trainers' never existed in an ultimate sense, only in a relative sense to the one that perceived them as trainers. They never knew themselves as trainers. Likewise a tree never knows itself as a tree, nor a bird as a bird. These are all realities projected upon them by us.
Maintaining this relative view of reality requires effort from the individual, our entire day is spent grappling with the naming and labelling of all things, even of 'ourself', as good, bad or irrelevant. This labelling and naming defines our every moment and activity.
After many years of struggling with 'meditation' or 'sitting quietly' or whatever label you want to pin on it, at some point I simply stopped trying.
That didn't mean that I stopped sitting or meditating, but that something significant shifted in my perception that some effort was 'required'.
From a practice of trying to find quiet, from trying to monitor my mind and whatever arose, from seeing meditation as another activity that I did, it shifted quite suddenly.
I considered that maybe I had for all of those years been approaching it from the wrong angle entirely. There was the realisation that it was actually the only thing that I couldn't 'do'.
For sure, developing better focus and concentration was a skill that could be progressed, but the deeper meditation, what I really wanted to explore, was something that I could only let go into. My brief glimpses of it had required zero effort, none whatsoever.
That letting go however, the zero effort idea, was ironically, incredibly challenging.
We are always so busy, feeling that we have to 'do something to maintain our existence' that to simply let go and be was easier said than done - except of course the whole point was that it couldn't be 'done'.
Rather than trying to meditate or find stillness, an activity that was impossible (how can you try to find stillness through effort?!) it was actually a remembering to stop chasing the impulse to do.
That impulse to be doing something is present constantly, every second. It doesn't mean that we should just stop and do nothing all day, life goes on, but doing just for the sake of doing is exhausting. Thinking for the sake of thinking, planning futures and chewing over the past for the sake of it is pointless and takes us further and further from the stillness and quiet we yearn for.
So meditation becomes a process of letting go of all that, and when you think you have let go, you let go even more and apply even less effort. There is absolutely no effort required to be still, to be centred. Stillness and centred is our default setting, everything else comes afterwards, is added over the top of that.
We need to fall back further and further, stop looking for something else......
Fear is an odd thing. Of all emotions it tends to illicit a very irrational response. That reptilian part of the brain kicks in and suddenly we tend to 'forget ourselves' entirely.
There are two things underlying this, both of which we are entirely ignorant of.
The first and most significant is the belief we hold that we are located and limited in this body and mind. Anything that in any way threatens the continuity of this body mind complex is seen as a threat to our very being. As if we might entirely vanish should it end.
Thats our root misunderstanding, our avidya, from which all other misunderstanding arises. There are all sorts of logical reasons and all sorts of meditations in many traditions, such as that of neti neti, that address this and serve to enlighten us from this mistake - i wont go int them now but Ill come back to it in another newsletter.
Fear then is a reaction to anything that we feel either threatens this being or even threatens the certainty we have about our environment. After all the less certain we are about our environment the less certain we can be about the survival of this body, That threat may be as insignificant as an unwanted comment (threatening our acceptance by a group or society); or it might be a perceived threat to our livelihood, earning potential or similar - again, we miss what is happening here - we mis-perceive it as threatening our very existence - or at least threatening the certainty of our environment.
Secondly, all fear has a felt component, that is to say, we feel fear in the body. It feels unpleasant. How that unpleasant feeling presents itself will be different for each person, but there is one common feature - we don't like that feeling and we want to get rid of it.
The irony here is that we don't even see the reaction as being a result of the feeling, simply because we completely overlook it.
These felt sensations are so very familiar to us, right in front of our face in every moment - not just with fearful situations - that we totally miss the reason for our reaction. We mistakenly believe that we are reacting to the original 'thing', the comment, the anxiety about our health, the email and so on. If we are practitioners, be it of yoga or any other sort of self development, this is a fundamental slip up. We have been graced with an opportunity to see with clarity, to erase misunderstanding and we have missed that opportunity entirely. There is no need to beat yourself up about that, in fact you probably can't because you will be entirely unaware of it.
This reaction stage is largely irrational. We are in fight or flight mode. All niceties go out of the window, we simply want the physical feeling (that we don't actually consciously register) to go away. We will at this point do anything, act in almost any manner, appropriate or not, in order to regain a pleasant felt sensation. So is established the next stages of misunderstanding - craving and aversion - raga and dvesha.
If we were aware of what was happening, if we were aware of the unpleasant sensation, we would have a moment to break the chain and act with wisdom, from a grounded place of logic. Of course the more often we miss the opportunity, the more we strengthen the chain of reactivity to sensation.
So how do we practice better noticing, better awareness?
Observation of the breath and the body are the key. We can do this in a formal or non formal setting. Formal would be time allocated to breath observation or body sensation observation, in other words - a meditation centred on awareness of breath and body. Nothing to do, simply observing. Letting awareness rest on observation, without processing, without adding anything or taking anything away from the experience. Simple, open awareness of body and breath. Becoming familiar with how it fluctuates when a noise or a thought or a feeling arises.
Once we have established some little understanding of this, we are then able to extend it into a non formal setting - i.e simply living our lives with presence. We will mess up, we will forget and we will not notice...but every now and then we will notice, we will see that we are feeling in the body and breath and we will see that we are about to react to that. It is at these moments that we have an opportunity to stop the chain of reactivity before it reaches its reactive conclusion. We can take a step back, draw breath and act with wisdom rather than reacting with ignorance.
We do have a choice. Whether you take it or not is up to you. One thing is sure though, don't pretend that you are practising yoga simply by doing asana and practising odd breathing patterns - thats just moving the body and breathing weirdly, its not yoga.
Yoga is to know the self, to understand the self, the breathing, the moving, they are just tools, if you don't understand what a tools purpose is it becomes entirely useless. Trying to open a screw top on a glass bottle with a hammer is going to be frustrating and probably result in some broken glass. Likewise, go through the motions of yoga as much as you like, but without correcting your fundamental misunderstandings you are pretty much just killing time.
Staying Positive in Challenging Times...I had to chuckle earlier - i had been writing an email and I signed iff with hope you have a great xmas break and that next year brings more joy...surely it cant be worse than this one!?
What made me chuckle was suddenly remembering I had written almost exactly the same words to the same person this time last year. It also seemed to be extended in every xmas card we received last year. I guess that the initial shock of a very changed world in 2020 has abated in 2021 and been replaced by an acceptance that humankind isn't about to vanish forever in a plague like apocalypse...yet! Cue sigh of relief ..... although maybe not from every other species on the planet! :)
What the panic and disorientation of 2020 has been replaced by though is something that makes me feel more uneasy - that is a tangible division in society.
It only takes a small amount of contemplation to see that all of this division is based in both fear and ignorance - regardless of what side of the equation you sit.
Fear drives most of our choices - it is irrational because it carries too much emotion and therefore opinions that arise from it are almost always saturated by hostility and anger towards those that disagree.
For example, regardless of whether you are into vaccines, masks, passports or not, both sides are oblivious to the fact that they have so much in common - they are equally united by their fear.
Many see vaccination as a way to abate the fear that they might lose their life or the own lives of those they love to the virus. For them it is the pathway to freedom from fear of death, illness and manipulation of fate by an invisible foe. Others will see vaccines and covid passports as a threat to their own health and liberty. Once again this is an opinion derived equally from fear of death, illness and manipulation of their fate, only this time by other forces than a virus.
Each side will argue passionately, referencing their argument with facts, first hand experience and hearsay. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having an opinion, I have lots of opinions on lots of things, but it is the anger I see that is the most concerning element of all this. People that I thought I knew well, suddenly behaving in ways that I never imagined they would towards others, trying to impose their views of right and wrong.
At times like this, when each side is so righteous it pays us well to return to the second element that i mentioned at the start- that being ignorance or avidya - the root cause of our suffering according to Buddhism and yoga.
There is so much ignorance tied up in confrontational opinion
To be human is to suffer, it is our nature to die, it is our nature to grow old; it is our nature to grow sick. It is unavoidable. You might push it away, but it is an inevitable conclusion to this game we play.
We don't know when our time will come and therefore there is little point trying to predict it or foolishly imagine that we can prolong it.
So we have to remind ourselves that to embark upon this path is to trust to it, is to have bhakti or devotion for it - there is no need to worry about the story unfolding, the great 'Lila' or game of life. As the Taoists would say, just enjoy the mystery; as the Advaaitins would say - you get on the train and trust it to take you to your destination, so put down your luggage and let the train carry its weight, don't keep it balanced on your head!
Let us stop worrying about what we think is right. Maybe it is our destiny to be wiped out at this moment? The true altruist, the only true altruist it could be said, would probably say that this was the best solution for the myriad of other species on the planet right now!
Or maybe it isn't our time? Either way we don't know and it isn't important anyway. What is important is to remember that we don't know, that we are ignorant to most of this and that we act blindly from fear for so much of the time. That is normal, that is to be human.
So we see it , we work to dispel it because we don't want to perpetuate that negativity in the world and we endeavour to be as positive and accepting to all people as we can, regardless of their opinions, because we see the underlying fear and ignorance that links all humans so strongly. In other words, we wake up from our daydream.
Recently I advocated that everyone checked out the positive news websites online, just google 'positive news'. It is so good for your mental health and for nurturing positive empathetic states of mind. Take time out to sit with your feelings and emotions every day, even if just a few minutes. See them clearly, see the origin of your thoughts and actions and you will not act out blindly so often. An remind yourself that we are all suffering, to be human is to suffer, there are causes of suffering and there is an end to suffering - but that end for you or anyone else will never be found by extending hostility, fear and anger :)
We hope you all enjoy a more fantastic 2022! Haha
So last week we talked about fear, working with fear and all sorts of misunderstandings that we have around that emotion.
I had some great feedback afterwards by email and its always useful for me to know whether the way that I am working with a topic makes sense or not. This is particularly useful if you are a teacher of anything - it is called teaching by wise means or Upaya in Buddhism.
You may not have realised but legend has it the Buddha was reluctant to pass on his message to the world after enlightenment, he simply thought that sharing it would be too difficult as it was such a personal journey and everyone learns in very different ways. In fact how it is possible to learn about something as abstract and intangible to the thinking mind as waking up from this very dream of reality?
The photo above sums this up really nicely, even the most devoted to the 'spiritual' path have a foot in both worlds. If not there would be no imagined spiritual path to even entertain us! What a hilarious situation to be in :)
The problem of a 'spiritual path to waking up' is that the thinking mind and attachment to an imagined self are the very predicament we find ourselves in. How can these faculties therefore ever solve the problem of themselves?
So we have to look slyly, out of the corner of our eye so to speak, the teachings aren't an A to B set of instructions - as much as we'd love them to be and most people assume they are - but a hint at the direction we should cast our gaze.
If we head off in the rough direction, the chances are that we wont turn back. We may forget where we are going every now and then as we get sucked back into the world of 'ten thousand things' as the Taoists call it, but if the devotion to the path is strong enough and without desire (theres another tricky thing - desireless devotion) then we will persevere. This desireless devotion to the ever present 'one' or true self, is akin to our idea of Bhakti yoga - devotion to God - except this God isn't personified in any way as we might usually find.
So there is a real trick in how we explore this, because dedicated practices are obviously a paradox in letting go of self, mind and objects that seem to cause us suffering.
To address this paradox, as far as is possible, there are certain non-practices found in many traditions, notably the non-dual paths of Advaita Vedanta, Dzogchen Buddhism, Taoism and Kashmiri Shaiivism. Although they may sometimes begin with an investigation of objects such as the body , their intention is to cut through the illusion of these objects and see the clarity of pure presence that the objects appear within and arise from.
At other times they 'look to' (again a paradox) the only 'non object' that we are aware of...awareness or consciousness itself, the sense that very clearly 'I am'. If we can rest in this state as often as we remember to, we will lose interest in the world of ten thousand things.
If you are interested in this 'Who Am I?' approach then I suggest you read a little around Sri Ramana Maharshi (below) and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. Both of whom were very unassuming characters who never attempted to be teachers but for the need of those that wanted to learn. However they shared very clear, direct messages, the latter being the owner of a tobacco shop where he would dispense these :) Michael James is a wonderful English translator of Ramanas teaching and you can find many talks with him on youtube although they aren't for the faint hearted. you will probably hear me on them at times asking very pressing questions too!
I'll be exploring some of these 'non-practices' in a 2 hour long live worksop with my good friends a Movement for Modern Life on Sunday 23rd May @10am the booking link is here if you'd like to join us https://movementformodernlife....
Know thy enemy they say, and fear certainly feels like our enemy.....except fear isn't our enemy, that is simply how we have framed it for our entire life. But we certainly do need to know fear intimately if we are to find any freedom from it as the demon we imagine.
We have learned to fear fear itself. Yet like our relationship to almost every objective experience, those where we frame our 'self' in relation to 'another' , the object is always mistaken to be the cause of our experience.
We have talked in our sessions about this often. For example chocolate may be imagined to be a source of pleasure but eat enough chocolate and you will feel sick - it becomes the source of your suffering instead. A shiny new car may be the imagined source of joy but tied up in that purchase is a huge amount of anxiety around it being scratched, damaged or stolen.
Likewise the perceived source of our fears have no inherent 'fearness' about them. You might be terrified of heights but end up becoming addicted to the joy of skydiving out of planes of base-jumping from tall buildings. - life is an odd thing.
It is not the external objective experience and it never has been, whether that be a spider, a fear of leaving the house, a fear of looking foolish or fear of missing out.
But the feeling of fear is tangible, very real and is what we actually react to.
Our past history, life experiences, culture, family and so on have caused us to perceive certain things as a threat. Whether that threat be a direct threat to our physical life or an indirect one to our imagined sense of self.
Lets take a look at a few examples:
Firstly we have to explore this very reaction, not by reading endless books on it - that might expand our knowledge but not our understanding.
What is your experience of fear? What does fear feel like?
A tightening or a clenching of the body somehow? Shortness of breath, a pounding head?
We all have a somatic sensation to the things we are averse to. However our great mistake is to attribute the fear to the external object when in fact we are simply averse to the unpleasant sensation in the body itself.
So before anything else we must become familiar, intimately familiar with those sensations, for only when we do this can we start to break the illusion of what we are reacting to. We see the truth of things rather than the illusion.
So that will clear up some misunderstandings and with enough observation and presence of mind we may start to break this chain of reactivity; eventually we might even un-condition our conditioned responses. However this takes a great presence of mind, effort and alertness.
There is a bigger question though and maybe it guides a different approach. Why does this fearful response arise at all?
The short answer is that it arises because we mistakenly imagine ourselves to be separate from the world. The notion that there is 'us' and there is 'other' separate to us - at least to our thinking mind.
This brings us to a second and one might say more fundamental way to deal with our fear; that is to abolish the misunderstanding of a separate self. To move away from our obsession with thinking, because it is thinking that imagines a separate self and instead to see that we are always and only ever, pure awareness or consciousness. That is our true self, not this ever changing, transient physical body and mind.
Again this is a topic that we have explored in detail, so if you have missed that then please go back and watch some of our past group sessions on the website free resources page.
So from this new paradigm, when fear arises, we might first see clearly the experience of fear, but then we are awake to the fact that it is simply an arising experience within our pure awareness. There is absolutely no need to reconfigure it, move away from it or resist it. In fact we actually 'lean into it' fully, being fully present with it as an arising within the field of awareness or consciousness. We see that it in no way affects, colours, stains or alters awareness - how could it - and that in fact it is of no more significance than a passing sound, sight or any other thought. There is no distinguishing property of fear that makes it any more important than these other experiences.
Its #danuary a month of allowing and noticing spontaneity, naturalness.
But what is it to be spontaneous? Is it even truly possible, if we think of doing something does that not remove the spontaneity from it? Of course, we imagine that there has to be some pre-meditation upon every action, even if it is only for a brief moment beforehand. Yet so much of our life revolves around spontaneous decisions, gut feelings, going with the flow.
We might not recognise those moments as true spontaneity but thats what they are. Moments that arise from outside of the thinking mind.
Yesterday in the middle of another project I went to the man cave to fetch some different sized screws; whilst searching for the box I needed, I uncovered a metal drum that I had been making before we moved house and that I hadn't finished. Before 'I' knew what was happening I had the drum on the workbench and was fully engrossed in tuning the notes – something that I hadn't finished.
There was no thought of guilt, that I should be completing the task that I was already on. Why should there be? Why should the joyful spontaneous unfolding of our day be wrapped in guilt and regrets of should be and could be. Isn't 'I am being. There is doing' more than enough?
I went surfing a couple of days ago, except that 'i didn't tactually go surfing because I decided not to go in once i got there. On the drive back up the hill from the beach I was blown away by the scene in the photo below, we stopped in the middle of the road for ten minutes and looked, took countless photos on the camera and phone. A spontaneous moment of unimagined joy.
That might not even be something that we particularly 'want' to do, there are moments of spontaneity to be found in our paid work or employment. Every moment of every day has an opportunity to be spontaneous if we step out of over thinking and projecting our actions into an imaginary future.
n Taoism Ziran is the manifestation of spontaneity, but it is interesting that it is not only translated as spontaneity but also as 'naturalness', 'so of itself' 'so of its own'. My interpretation of this is that it much more of an allowing to happen as opposed to our usual way of forcing to happen or making happen. Simply to let life unfold in its naturalness, to be intrigued and fascinated by the unfolding, by the play or 'lila' of the universe. To wake up and wonder what the day holds, even in the worst of tasks, most testing of jobs, to wonder what glimmers of light might appear, what wonders might unfold. Allowing the mystery of our existence to be a source of constant joy.
I'm certainly not 'there' yet, but when I remember this it always lifts me up and reminds me that even though I'm wet through in the pouring rain (my worst situation!) its also kind of magical and Im very conscious of how alive I am and what a gift life is. I remind myself - don't waste it by dwelling on the humdrum and the negativity So #danuary is a call to ziran, to spontaneity. Id love to see the opportunities to notice that naturalness you find in every day, however small and simple they might be.