Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On Vacation What Are We Seeking?

I find it ironic that we spend the entire year looking forward to traveling for a week or two to some other place that we hope will bring us enough pleasure to make all our work worthwhile.  Or perhaps we need a rest after working so hard and just want to go somewhere and take it easy.  Or maybe we have a genuine interest in something that really makes us feel alive and we travel to participate with others in something that adds meaning.  But, what is this pleasure, this rest, this meaning that we seek if only for 1/52nd or 1/26th of our year?  Wouldn't it be nice to just naturally experience this pleasure, ease, and meaning the other 51 or 52 weeks a year?  What are we seeking and how can we live it?

I like to travel.  I like spiritual journeys. Pilgrimages.  I want to experience something that is irrevocably life changing in the most positive way.  I want to be completely and forever transformed by my journey. But, no matter where I have ever been, after returning, slowly but surely life returns to the way it was before the journey.  I've traveled to famous churches, to monasteries, to temples in several countries.  But the effect was short lived.  I've been to wonderful resorts.  I've laid out all night on beaches and backpacked to high mountain lakes.  Some of these trips made a deeper impression than others, but none transformed me the way I was wanting to be transformed.  When I returned, the same problems I had left were still there.  I still had the same cravings and aversions, though they may have been diminished for a time.  I was no kinder, no more virtuous, no more wise a few weeks after I returned than I was before I left.  What I was seeking was so incredibly short lived!

A few years ago, I decided to start going on retreats again after not being on one for many years.  Chan  retreats. Vipassana retreats.  These are silent retreats.  You aren't allowed to use a computer, use a cell phone, or talk to anyone for the entire time you are there.  But, they are life transforming.  Once the chatter and commentary in your head stops, you can see clearer than you might have known was possible! This is the ultimate vacation!  There is nothing like journeying to a state of equanimity and experiencing life millisecond by millisecond. How rich the world is if we have eyes to see and ears to hear! At such times, there is no inner or outer.  There is only perfection, suchness, in every passing second.

Where is there to go when right here right now is perfect in every respect?  What could be more pleasurable, restful, or meaningful that being fully awake in this very moment?  Once the chattering stops, the music begins. The grand symphony of life. Everything sings in response to everything else, infinitely correlated, infinitely inter-responding in a perfectly frictionless, fluid, natural harmony.  Isn't this what we were always seeking, to be fully awake, at ease in body and mind, and perfectly content to just experience things just as they are without judgment, commentary, or any associations?  Just bare, clear awareness of what really is?  Having experienced this, we may wonder how it is that this was ever hidden from us.

We just have such a long ingrained habit of stirring things up!  We stir up our thoughts.  We stir up our emotions.  By doing so, we miss what is already naturally there. There never was a time when it wasn't there, like the moon that is reflected perfectly once the waters become placid!  We miss what we would experience if we would just let go, be still, and let everything flow naturally.  Then, our environment is no longer separate from us and we are no longer pinched off in our own little neurotic worlds.  It's only our grasping and pushing away that hides the real state of the world from us. Our cravings, lusts, aversions, hatreds dim our perception until we are truly in darkness, barely living, like automatons or zombies pulled onward by hunger and thirst.  Or driven by fear.

What if we could go on vacation and come back more alive than we ever previously imagined possible?  What if when we returned, we were more in touch with our thoughts and feelings than ever before?  What if we, having learned to rest in every breath, in every moment, could easily regenerate energy and move through the day with grace and ease?  What if we had the luxury of time to really feel and really think before we speak?  How many hurtful things would go unsaid! How many kindnesses would be shared!  How valuable such a vacation would be for us individually, but also for our families and for the world!  Terrorism and war would be an absurdity in such a world.

The next time you think about going on a vacation, take time to consider what you are truly seeking. Consider whether going to Disneyland, Las Vegas or to the beach compares favorably to taking time out to be completely silent and let everything settle completely.  When the mind is completely settled, awareness is sharpest, most expansive, most penetrating.  When the mind is completely content, does not grasp or push away, perception is pure and insight naturally occurs.  This kind of perception and insight can be life transforming.  If enough people have this kind of vacation, we would all live in paradise.