Often I find that when I put my mind to achieving something, just the opposite happens. When I want to be quiet and restful my mind is anything but quiet and restful. When I decide I want to make a move or change something in my life, I find that nothing changes and I feel trapped. Why can't I achieve what I want?
Restless And Unmoving
Dear Restless And Unmoving,
There is a line in an ancient Chinese poem, Affirming Faith in Mind, that says, “Seek movement and there’s no movement, seek rest and no-rest comes instead.” There are two points to be made here.
The first is that, as with all areas of our samsara and learned experience, we can’t white knuckle change. It just doesn’t work. All it does is make the push-back of our ego-mind even stronger.
If there’s something you don’t like in your life, if there’s something you want to change, you can’t fight it, you can’t escape it. The only tactic, ironically, that works is to accept that aspect of your life, acknowledge it, have compassion for it. Often that means acknowledging and having compassion for the fear and insecurity that you feel.
But say firmly that you have faith that if you plan for the future mindfully, remaining in the present, (see my blog posts on planning for the future as well as my book, Making Your Way in Life as a Buddhist) all will be well regardless how it turns out; you release any attachment to the outcome; what will be will be. You express confidence that regardless what happens you will handle it well because you have faith that if you live each day, each moment, well the future will take care of itself.
When you apply this practice, you will find that whatever it was that disturbed you ... whether it's rushing around or feeling static ... the energy that was creating that state will subside and you will be able to move forward.
The second is that rest and no-rest, movement and no-movement are not a dichotomy that exists in reality. Those are just thoughts, labels, that are in our ego-mind.
In reality there is neither rest nor no-rest, movement nor no-movement. Instead life is a continuum that is not static. Regardless whether in our ego-mind we apply the label moving or not, or resting or not, life is moving forward, all is one.
And as the Chinese poem further says, “When rest and no-rest cease to be, then even oneness disappears.” When the mind makes no distinctions, when there are no labels, then even the label of “oneness” is no more. Things just are as they are, as one. This is the ultimate freeing ourselves from the known, from the tyranny of the past and the tyranny of the future.