Introspection is a form of meditation. Siddhartha sat under the tree trying to understand suffering. He asked himself questions: >why must there be suffering?, what is the source of suffering?, and who is it that suffers? From this he was able to draw lines between the ideas of causality, judgment, and acceptance.
You must come to realise: your sources of happiness are intricately linked to your sources of pain. The reason you are so happy when you see your lover after a long absence is the same reason you suffer when they are leaving or gone. You cannot have one feeling without the other, just as you couldn’t find these black words if the background wasn’t white. Likewise, suffering and joy exist in mutual dependence.
If you use language to develop an idea of a separate you, then you have a subject and object concept of the universe. In that world you can own things either by purchasing them like products, or by “owning” them by title—like your boyfriend, or your child, or your parent. Of course along with the attachment of something being “yours” you will have all sorts of rules and limits and invisible agreements about how these things or people can function.
If people or things don’t do what you expect then your attachment to an outcome will cause you to suffer. So if you compare how your mother acts versus how you thought a mother should act, then that comparison will generate suffering. If you don’t think your girlfriend should even talk to other men, then suffering will be generated by your comparison between what you want and what actually is realistic.
Acceptance is when we use words to argue with Now. We can use words to build ideas like obligation, or duty, or rightness and wrongness, but these are all merely word-based arguments with the Present Moment. The actual words form the act of non-acceptance. But that non-acceptance will still only exist in our own minds.
The outside world does not have a right and a wrong, you apply that feeling to the world with your Personal Thinking. You either approve of the world or you don’t. But whether you do or not, your unwillingness to accept the Is-ness of life is still something that is your personal experience. Your disappointment is not something in the world itself—it is a layer of Personal Thinking that you are laying over the world.
Do you understand that a book isn’t good or bad, it’s just a book? Your feelings about that book are based on the story you tell yourself about it. But that story isn’t a thing in other people’s lives. It’s not true for them unless they choose to think about it the same way you are.
So a book can simultaneously be both good and bad. Which one we think it is will simply depend on who’s reality we’re generating with our thinking. But we’re not supposed to reconcile everyone’s opinions. The point of life isn’t to find out how to neatly sort everyone’s individual views. We’re not Tetris-ing the world together into some form of perfection. We’re understanding that there is no such thing as perfection.
Spend time thinking about the strange but important questions in life. Who are you? What defines you? What is suffering? What are the sources of your suffering? What does it mean to accept something? What is an attachment made of? And, what is the difference between your personal thinking and the world itself?
These are truly not difficult questions. But they do require your attention. They can be strange and unwieldy to handle at the start, but the more time you spend with these questions the clearer and more useful they become. And you can ask these questions anywhere; while you drive, in line at the bank, while you run, or even out loud with a friend. These are all useful meditations.
Fortunately these sorts of questions are becoming more common, and so our culture is getting better at having this useful conversation. By expanding our awareness of how the world works, we reduce our exposure to unnecessary suffering all while we also expand our capacity for joy. And in doing that, we achieve the goal Gandhi set when he suggested that we “be the change we want to see in the world.”
Enjoy your day.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.