Well, of course, it’s not simple. It’s very difficult because of the power and deeply embedded nature of our ego thinking-mind and habit-energies. But the point that the choice is ours is absolutely correct.
Once we are aware of the impermanence of all things. Once we are aware of the emptiness of all five skandhas ... appearance of form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness-ego. Once we are aware that there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today, only the present moment and that the present is the only reality, all else is thought, all else is in the mind. Once you know that all you need to be happy is to offer others joy, to be in the company of loved ones and friends, to respect your mind, to respect your body, to be in touch with nature, and to live within your means, and that everything else your mind tells you is ego.
Once you are aware of all these things, both when you’re on the cushion and off, then the choice is truly yours. Do you really want to be at peace and find happiness in each moment? (See my post, “Do You Really Want to Be at Peace and Content?”) If the answer is “yes,” then the way is to follow the path of the Buddha as best you can and not be drawn into the web of your mind. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot have the “comfort” of your habit-energies and experience peace and happiness.
But even if you answer “yes” unequivocally, even if you are aware of all the Buddhist truths noted above ... it is not, as the monk claimed, “as simple as that.” Because even at this stage of your practice, your ego-thinking mind in concert with things happening in your life and the world around you conspire to draw you into its vortex of attachment, fear, anxiety, frustration, anger, negativity, etc. And its pull is very strong.
What then is the way forward? How do you implement your answer of “yes”? The answer lies in the daily discipline of meditation and the recitation of mantras that embody these truths.
We are trying to create a new paradigm for our lives. And that is very difficult. By reciting affirming mantras every day, in addition to meditating, we slowly begin to absorb these truths at a deeper level until we get to the point that they become our new default mode, not our old habit-energies.
As I have often said, walking the path of the Buddha is a slow, incremental process. If we are disciplined in watering the seeds of our true Buddha nature, we find as the weeks and years go by that those roots grow deeper and stronger and we are more able to both be aware and say “no” to the force of our ego thinking-mind when it arises, thus being able to see things clearly and be at peace. (See my post, “Nirvana - It’s Right before Your Eyes.”)
For more than two decades, I have been doing as I suggested in my 2014 post “The Choice Is Yours” - the discipline of daily meditation and the recitation of mantras that embody the dharma truths - and my practice has made a great difference in my life. Things no longer push my buttons, I do not react with emotion, I know that things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is, I release all desire for my life to be different in any way from the way it is right now, I embrace all aspects of my being and experience, my mind rests undisturbed, and I know that I will be OK regardless what life throws my way because I have returned home and will always return home to be true Buddha self. I am at peace.
But, as I have frequently written, despite those changes that evidence freedom from my ego-mind, I still have felt this frown on my face; there is a grayness surrounding me. It has been a puzzlement. Only recently did I become aware that the reason is that there is some deep trauma residing in my body that I was not conscious of.
The trauma's physiological existence is separate from its psychological in the ego mind, which is why my daily meditation practice and reciting affirmations has not freed me from this aspect of the trauma. And so I have started doing exercises to free the pain of the trauma from my body, to no longer repress it, and so allow the body trauma to be healed. (See my posts, “Trauma,” and “Trauma Denied No Longer.”)
This will take some time, possibly many years, possibly the trauma will never be healed. In the meantime, however, it has become abundantly clear that this grayness has caused me to retreat from life in many ways. I no longer have oomph, I don’t feel like I have energy for most things. I am not in the joyful space of my true Buddha self. I am not in touch with my positive energy. I am really in many ways disconnected from myself.
My first thought when thinking about this was that this is a natural part of growing older (I am 75 now). And in one sense that is correct in that many people experience this when they grow older.
But when I meditated I realized that that thought was nonsense. It has nothing to do with growing older. It has everything to do with my trauma creating a blahness that few things can counter. And I have grown somewhat lazy and complacent with age.
And so I came back to the truth that I have a choice. Every moment of the day, I can make the choice to experience joy and be in touch with the positive energy in my heart. This is what I must do if I want to live fully and be in touch with my true self, until such time as this deep body trauma is healed. It is what I will do.
Thankfully, this antidote to body trauma is easier to implement than making the choice to surrender the ego, because the body trauma seems to be a passive force rather than an active force like the ego-mind. I am experiencing the benefits already.