It occurred to me recently how so much of our suffering is caused by holding on to so many concepts and desires. I need so-and-so to invite me, and I suffer because he didn’t. I want worldly success, and I suffer because I don’t have it. I want a direction in my life, more friends, a partner, security, social recognition, and I suffer because I don’t have these things, and I imagine that I should. And what if I never get them? Reality is as it is, but I want it to be different. Suffering is the gap between reality and expectations, and its intensity is proportional to the width of this gap.
We have so many conditions for happiness to materialize in some distant future. In the meantime, the here and now becomes a perpetual attempt to get away to another place and time. It seems that attaching to these concepts and desires is incompatible with being at peace here and now. Most of the time, we strive outward in order to satisfy our desires. We try to control things so we get our way. This in itself is stressful, as we all know. And what if we don’t succeed? There is real fear there. Sometimes we do succeed. We get the girl or the guy, we win the argument, we get the job. And we feel happy for a while. But sometimes we don’t succeed, or we succeed only partially, or at someone else’s expense. The girl or the guy is unavailable, we lose the argument, someone else gets the job. And we feel lousy. But whether we win or lose, whether we get what we want or not, there is no peace.
It seems to me that peace is in letting go of these stressful concepts. They are all made up anyway. Has anyone ever seen a tree wishing it was taller, or straighter, or greener? Or a cat wishing it could bark? A three-legged dog longing for its missing leg? We make up ideas of what we think reality should look like for us to be happy, and we live in stress trying to make those things happen. Our minds are full of useless, stressful concepts. It is time to start questioning those ideas instead of believing them blindly. Is there really something wrong with me, outside my belief that there is? Perhaps we are perfect the way we are, with our warts and all, in the same way that a gnarled tree in the forest is perfect the way it is. It is time to let go of our personal and collective religions of deficiency and wake up to the fact that there has never been anything wrong with us, and that only our minds would have us believe otherwise.