So on this Thanksgiving holiday, I want to share with you what has brought about this transformation. I and others have written many books on this subject and I certainly have written many posts, but I thought it would be helpful to concisely state my experience.
I was first introduced to Buddhism by a friend 25 years ago. I recognized immediately that there was something very different here and as I learned the teachings of the Buddha I had total faith. They made sense; they explained why the world and my life were the way they are. But it has taken decades of disciplined, daily meditation and practice, together with the teachings I received from monks and books and the daily spiritual conversations I have with my partner, to be able to know these spiritual truths from within and so bring me to the spiritual place that I am now.
And what is that place? Briefly stated there are several components. First, I know that what is most important to me is peace and happiness. Nothing else my mind or culture urges on me has any value without peace and happiness.
Second, I know that all my mental suffering is a function of my mind … its emotions, perceptions, cravings, attachments, doubts, etc. Not the actual things that I experience. Of course I experience pain, physical or mental, but it is what my mind does with that pain that causes me suffering rather than being able to experience it with dispassion. The Buddha said, “If it causes you suffering, it is not you, it is not yourself, for yourself would not cause you suffering," and so I have said to all these feelings and perceptions, “Not me!” I have disassociated myself from my mind (the ego judgmental part). It is not my true self.
Third, what then is my true self? It is my heart, my true Buddha nature. The Buddha taught that we are all born essentially perfect, with the Buddha nature inside us. Actually the mystical traditions of all 3 Abrahamic faiths … Kabbalah, Sufism, and Gnosticism … all teach that we were born with the divine essence in us, that is our true nature; but that our mind has separated us from that essence and it is our responsibility to rediscover it. That is our task, to reconnect with the light, love, faith, trust, compassion, humility, gratefulness, joy, contentment, strength, courage, and wisdom that is our heart.
How did I find my heart? For years I struggled with this but could not connect. Then one day while meditating, a photo of me as a smiling toddler came to me and I knew right then that that child was my true Buddha self. That opened the door to understanding that these qualities really are my essence, not the darkness, fear and anxiety that was bred in my ego-mind from its reactions to my life experiences. Outwardly, people saw light in me, but the darkness in me controlled much of my life; I was in turmoil.
How does this all apply to my life in a practical way? I know that regardless what life throws my way I will be ok, safe, (mentally) because I have returned home to my heart, my true Buddha self, and am at peace and happy. I know that my life is the way it is right now because it’s just the way it is (free of any judgment, so it’s not resignation) and I am free of desire that my life be in any way different than it is at this moment. And so I am happy and content and at peace in the present, free of all frustration; my mind rests undisturbed. I know that all things are impermanent and so I release all attachments, even to life itself, and take joy in each passing moment, free of all frustration.
That in a nutshell is where my life is today. I am truly free of all agitation; virtually nothing presses my buttons; I view all things with dispassion (I’m very aware of all the dysfunction in the world out there but react to it free of emotion). I am at peace and happy. I have even begun to experience true joy, taking simple pleasure in each passing moment.
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and much love in your life, especially for yourself!