“I’ve tried looking at the fucking tree, man. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. You say “truth is evident” but I don’t know how to see it. How do I see it? This stuff has been driving me crazy for years. I’m so fed up. Just wanna be done with it. How to be free? How to be happy? How to be at peace? How to let go?”
The boy is on the beach busy building a sandcastle. And each time the wave comes in and wrecks his castle, he moans in despair and blames the universe for his woes. Yet, in the next moment, as he begins rebuilding, he is filled with positive emotion and hope when his castle begins taking shape again. Eventually, another big wave comes in and wrecks the castle and the boy cries out in dismay, lamenting that life as he knows it has lost all purpose….
You are being a child. Why do you think this “stuff” has been driving you crazy all these years? Because what you’ve been indulging in is literally insane. You are attempting to find the “one shape” of a castle that will withstand the big wave. There is no such shape. The big wave will destroy whatever you build no matter how sophisticated.
All these HOW questions you are asking: how to be happy, how to be free, how to see the truth, how to let go – what you are really asking me is: “how do I build a castle that won’t crumble?”
You can’t. You won’t. Castles are meant to crumble.
Can you imagine the boy who keeps rebuilding again and again in desperation in the belief that he will hit that magic configuration one day? THIS is your problem. THIS is the source of your neurosis. You think “truth” is some ideal or superior architecture that needs to be found through diligence and practice and perseverance.
That’s why you’ve followed these teachers and gurus for so many years. These “castle experts” who have just the right technique, the right practice, the right teaching that will provide a solution to all your problems. Do this meditation, inquire in this way, eat this, sit like this, sleep like this, fuck like this. They’ve got you jumping through hoops like a circus pony because that’s how gullible you are.
You say you’re fed up. You say you want to be done with it. Then, BE DONE WITH IT.
What’s your excuse?
Sitting here asking another human being: how do I do this, how do I do that, is not going to get you anywhere. It keeps you stunted and child-like (and not in a good way). Only children ask their parents how they must do things because they are helpless. At least they have a good reason – they’ve only been alive for a handful of years. What’s your excuse?
Your problem is not truth, happiness, peace or any of that. That is how you have FRAMED the problem in your own mind because you want to avoid seeing the REAL problem.
And the real problem is that life isn’t easy.
It holds an inherent dichotomy that makes us uncomfortable. Every moment of pleasure contains within it the seed of pain just waiting to sprout. Every new birth already prophesizes a future death. Every good thing that happens to you is eventually going to go away. Everyone you love is eventually going to die in front of your very eyes, or you in front of theirs.
Every fragrant flower eventually rots and gives off a stench. Every innocent child eventually grows into a confused adult. Even great marriages end in messy divorces. Even children who have been given everything by their parents grow up to forget all about what their parents did for them. No matter how much money you earn, no matter how much power you wield, no matter how much fame or influence you have, the burden of what “you don’t have” will always outweigh the weight of what you do.
Every single person alive on this planet today will be dead in another hundred years. And in time they will be entirely forgotten. Your life, your name, your entire existence will be like it never even happened.
Your entire lifetime will vanish like a fucking Snap Chat conversation.
THAT is what you simply cannot bear.
And you want it to be different. So you invent this alternate reality called “enlightenment” where life IS easy. And there are no problems in enlightenment-land. There is no happiness or sadness – ONLY happiness. No peace or conflict – ONLY peace. No truth or falsehood – ONLY truth. Sat, Chit, Ananda.
In other words, all you have done is taken the religious notion of PARADISE and turned it into a “place in the mind” versus a place in the sky.
Earth is too painful and you want heaven. Isn’t that what “transcendence”, “ascending”, “higher self”, “higher consciousness” are all about? Look at the imagery and symbolism hidden in the words! It’s all about GOING UP. Up where? Up to what?
You’ve tried escaping in the horizontal direction – through work, relationships, alcohol, money and none of that worked out for you. So, you just shifted your strategy to a vertical direction. Now, rather than sideways, you are trying to escape upwards! That’s all spirituality is – a vertical escape hatch.
People think Zazen is meditation. It is not. If there was a practice I would endorse as even remotely beneficial it is zazen. And not the version it has become with its bullshit rituals and gasshos and other such nonsense. But its original intent.
Because all zazen is about is JUST sitting. NOT meditating, NOT trying to experience insight, NOT trying to see reality, NOT trying to witness your own thoughts, NOT trying to be aware of awareness or some such pretentious crap. But literally JUST sitting.
Because these zen dudes realized that people like you are literally in escape mode 24 fucking 7. If there is an outlet to escape, you WILL take it. It could be a door, a window, a sewer, a ventilation shaft. ANYTHING to get the fuck away from where you are right now.
So, the ONLY solution they saw to this problem of compulsive escape was to SIT PUT. If you were to translate the word “zazen” into its literal meaning in the context of when it was created, it would translate to “just sit yer ass down!”
Forget heaven. Down to earth. Forget enlightenment. Back to basics.
That is what I subjected myself to for over a year. Hours and hours of just sitting on my balcony with nothing to do. Not meditating, not witnessing. Just using every ounce of self-control I had to prevent myself from leaping out of my own skin or jumping over the balcony. And it was through utter boredom and helplessness, seeing how deep that resistance was within me, that I came to realize what my REAL problem was.
It wasn’t that I wasn’t happy or at peace or whatever. It was that I couldn’t bear discomfort. And the more I focused on the discomfort the more uncomfortable it felt – just like an itch that you can’t reach. Sitting in self-imposed solitary confinement did two things. First, it developed courage within me to sit with the discomfort and take responsibility for it. Second, it allowed me to see how I was exponentially magnifying the discomfort by giving it undue significance.
All my existential angst was no more significant than an annoying itch. How many people are willing to look at their own suffering in such a mundane way? Imagine glorifying a skin rash into the greatest existential crisis to plague humanity! That is what we do with our suffering.
Truth IS evident when you aren’t desperately trying to look away from it.
Nobody TOLD the boy that he has to build a castle. He sees other kids doing it so feels he should as well. But neither the ocean nor the beach exist for the purpose of his castle. And when he is done sulking, he will realize it isn’t all about him.
The real miracle here is that he has been given the opportunity to play. The beach provides the sand for him to create shapes with. The ocean provides the moisture with which the sand may hold together. This simple dynamic of interaction between water and sand allows him hours of endless play.
What a fucking miracle. Because if this were just a desert, the sand would be too dry to hold together. And if this were the ocean floor, there would be too much water for the sand to take shape. It is precisely the point where surf meets sand, that sandcastles are possible. And it’s precisely here that the big wave will come in to eventually tear them down.
Truth is seeing this dynamic for what it is. Happiness is enjoying the miraculous opportunity to play. Peace is realizing that no matter what you build it will eventually be taken down and returned to its original form.
The system is flawless to begin with and nothing you can do can either improve or fuck it up.
So play. Just play.
When it comes to playing, there is no how.