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What is the story of your Life?
I love a good story or poem, especially when they are in the realm of the spiritual and psychological. Add in a dash of humour, a Zen koan or two for mystery, a Japanese haiku and a Buddhist teaching and there is a sweet mixture of enlightenment and challenge to taste.
Here are some of my current favorites with a short commentary I have written about each one. Enjoy the story and also the story of your life.
“Suzuki Roshi, I’ve been listening to your lectures for years,” a student said during the question and answer time following a lecture, “but I just don’t understand. Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?” Everyone laughed. Suzuki laughed. “Everything changes,” he said. Then he asked for another question.”
If we recognize the truth of impermanence and that everything always changes, including the cells in our body, relationships, jobs, etc then you will become much more comfortable with change. At times, ‘everything changes but it all stays the same. Or rather we stay the same as we remain stuck in our habitual patterns and story. A good therapist or counsellor can support you to change your story, thoughts and emotions and even change the direction of your life, but no-one can do it for you. ‘The only thing that is constant is change!’
“Wherever you go, there you are.”
There is really no need to go anywhere at all. We think that if we go on holiday or to a meditation retreat, that somehow we will become a different person and of course, we may for a short time as we relax and wind down. However we take our body, mind, thoughts and feelings wherever we go.
Usually when we are back in our ‘normal’ routine and life, the same stress, frustration and emotions return. Why? The answer is simple. Its not about changing our location, it’s about changing our mind! When you go searching all the time, the searching self can take you over. “You become a spiritual tourist, bustling about and never getting anywhere.” A famous Buddhist teacher, Patrul Rinpoche said, “You leave your elephant at home and look for its footprints in the forest.” This means that we are always looking and searching for something external. However what you are searching for is inside you, so come home to yourself. The answer to a happy life is not out there. I’m not suggesting that we don’t go on holidays or to yoga or meditation classes. However recognize that you take yourself wherever you are.
“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?” Dogen.
In this modern life, we are always looking to the future and planning. We tell ourselves stories like, ‘when I know more, or when the time is right or when I’m less busy.’ Yet, in Process Oriented Psychology we also believe that time is an edge ie. I’ll do it later means I can’t quite do it right now! Yet finding the truth for yourself right where you are now, moment by moment will refresh you and lead you to into a new way of being.
“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” Alan Watts
Once upon a time, I dreamt I was a butterfly…
Suddenly I awoke…
Now, I do not know whether I was then
a man dreaming I was a butterfly,
or whether I am now a butterfly
dreaming that I am a man. Chuang Tzu
During our dreams we usually do not know we are dreaming. We may even dream of interpreting a dream. Only on waking do we know it was a dream. Only after the great awakening will we realize that this life is the great dream.” Chuang Tsu
We have a saying that ‘life is but a dream.’ Actually, it is. Chuang Tsu refers to ‘the great awakening’ which is enlightenment. How is this useful even if we are not enlightened yet? It can help us develop some detachment and we begin to ‘not sweat the small stuff’ and ‘go with the flow’ more. It will you help recognize that your life is made up of different stories and you don’t have to hang on to them. You can write yourself a new story at any time.
You can also READ my New BLOG on DREAMS. “Dreams are answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask. Sometimes dreams alter the course of an entire life. http://www.sydneyprocesscounselling.com.au/dreams/