This post (a revision of a 2013 post) goes even further in reducing the process of finding peace and happiness, and establishing the platform of serenity needed to delve deeper into the Buddha dharma and your heart, to its most essential elements: acceptance, being present, and believing that regardless what life throws your way, you will be ok, safe.
This does not replace the other posts, or any of my posts, but its focus is more narrow and thus suited to be used as the core of your daily meditation practice, both on and off the cushion.
As the saying goes, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. If I am disturbed it is because something is not the way I want it to be and I can find no peace until I accept that that’s exactly the way it is right now at this moment.”
Without acceptance of ourselves and the world around us, we approach everything from a lack of equanimity which turns even otherwise skillful desires into unskillful desires and cravings. Without acceptance, we can never be present because our ego-minds will not allow us to be present. Truly, without acceptance one can find no peace, no end to suffering.
This presents a conundrum, for in order to fully accept ourselves and the world around us, we need to be free of our ego-mind. But being free of the ego-mind is a central task of the Buddhist path and it takes time … anything from years to a lifetime.
So how do we start the process while not being free of the ego-mind? You start by introducing affirmations into your daily meditation practice. By stating your intent daily, it begins to take root. It empowers you. You will feel the difference.
Affirmation #1: I know that my life is exactly the way it is at this moment because it’s just the way it is. And it’s all ok. I have faith that things will work themselves out.
Affirmation #2: I release all desire for my life to be different in any way from the way it is right now at this moment.
It is important that you say the affirmations firmly, with conviction. The first time you say them, you may well react, “No way.” Because your ego-mind won’t be in agreement. But when you sit with the affirmations, and repeat them, you will feel a relief rather than a fear wash over you; you will feel unburdened. That is the feeling that will empower you to stay the course on this path.
2. Being Present
As noted in my post, “Being Present Is the Key to Peace and Contentment,” without being present, focused on the now, one cannot be free of thought, free of suffering. Because your ego-mind will instead carry you away, obsessing about the past or the future, imagining what if or what was.
When you are in that state, there is no freeing yourself from suffering because it is your ego-mind that is the repository and protector of your cravings and emotions. Even if you are aware of the emptiness of all five skandhas, at those times when your ego-mind is in control, all is lost and your are at that moment subject to the suffering brought on by your emotions and cravings.
Since this has been your default mode for your life till now, you must clearly form an intent to be present every moment of the day. Don’t worry when you find that you are not able to be present for much of the day, let alone all; this is not a failure. Making progress on the spiritual path takes time and requires great discipline. Always keep it at the forefront of your practice. As the saying goes, “When faith and mind are not separate, and not separate are mind and faith, there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, no today. There is only the present moment, all else is thought.
As your acceptance practice begins to take root you will notice that you have an easier time implementing your intent to be present.
3. What about the future?
Ok, so you have formed the intent to truly accept your life and the world around you as being exactly the way it is at this moment, and to be present free of your ego-mind, but “What about the future?” the reader will undoubtedly ask. Your ego-mind is still there, and always will be (it is part of you), and it has the desire to control your future
But the future cannot be controlled. Not by you, not by any spiritual work, not by prayers. You can implement a well-thought-through plan, always being present, but that does not guarantee it will all come out as you hope. All you can control is how you react to whatever occurs in the future.
This becomes a question of faith … faith in the Buddha dharma, faith in your true Buddha nature, faith in yourself, not in the universe or the actions of others. Because when you return home to your true Buddha nature, you know that regardless what happens, because you view things with dispassion not emotion, because you live each moment well in accordance with the Five Precepts, you will be ok. Which is to say that regardless what happens you will have the spiritual strength to find peace and happiness because you are capable of being present in the moment, free of your ego-mind.
This probably sounds very circular, which is not uncommon in Buddhist teaching. Like, we’re comfortable planning for the future because we know that if nothing changes or even if “bad” things happen, everything will be ok in the sense that we will be spiritually safe and will be at peace and happy. Part of the exercise of meditating on what you need or don’t need to be at peace and happy is precisely to come to that realization.
Two points. We are human beings and human beings have a natural desire to grow. The point of acceptance and the Buddhist path is not to negate that desire but to let it come from a place of equanimity so that it is a Right desire rather than an unskillful desire and craving. So that when we plan for the future we do not obsess about it and implement our plan while firmly grounded in the present.
Second, the world is often a hostile environment where anything can happen, whether it’s an illness or something that is done to us. The point of the Buddhist path is to insure that regardless what life throws our way, we will be at peace and happy because we have returned home to our true Buddha nature and are free of the control of our ego-mind. We will be aware of the “problem,” but because we view things through the eyes of our true Buddha self, our unwounded heart, we view things with dispassion, with equanimity.
This is not to say that you won’t walk away from a situation feeling, unemotionally, that something needs to be done to change the situation you encountered or keep such things from happening in the future, if that is feasible. But you will not obsess on this observation. And so you will not feel frustrated and will not suffer. You will take action if possible with equanimity.