January 13, 2014
As I sit inside writing beside the radiant warmth of the fireplace, it’s raining outside, raining really hard. The muddy gravel streaming down our dirt driveway carving long ruts and crevices is making a mess of our road, and yet, I’m relieved. If you’ve been reading this blog lately, you know that I’ve been scared and worried about this very dry winter.
It’s so easy to be in a continual state of wishing things were other, creating contention and upset with the conditions and circumstances of our lives. But whether it’s a drought or monsoon, it is just how it is. Ajaan Sumedho, the prominent Buddhist teacher says, “It’s like this.” A drought is like this, a monsoon is like this. It’s not personal, it’s how it is.
Life is a continual accommodation to the circumstances of our lives. And sometimes “just how it is” is difficult, uncomfortable and painful. The teaching “it’s like this,” helps us see more clearly and not take things so personally. It loosens the grip of whatever thoughts or emotions have us caught, eases the tension in the mind and frees us up to respond more wisely.
With practice, mindfulness lets us see our relationship to our thoughts and emotions, and the habit patterns that get created. So when I look outside and see the dry hills and the low rivers, I also begin to notice that worry and fear creep into my mind. When I can identify the worry and fear, maybe even sense where I feel it in my body, I get to know what worry and fear feel like. It’s like this. Now I am more likely to respond with care and kindness for my own suffering and not start catastrophizing about what dry hills and low rivers might mean. It also lets me see that being in contention with the weather is pretty much a dead end. But how often do I lament the weather? It’s silly when I think about it, but it’s a habit, and habits can be changed.
Each moment of seeing “it’s like this” is a moment of accommodation and clarity. Each moment of mindfulness is a moment of kindness, and each moment of kindness is a moment of mindfulness. With time, all of these moments accumulate into a life of greater ease, wisdom and compassion.
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.