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The Variable

[May 2023 – Dharma Center Mindfulness Tip]

We always want to know what happens next. Our mind concludes that if we know what is next, we can control our life and circumstances. Or at least we can put ourselves in the right place at the right time to get what we want. In order to make an educated guess, we go to great lengths to invent stories based on the patterns we see. By knowing what is coming, we tell ourselves we will be able to face it – whatever “it” is. We think by taking control, we will be safe.

In our quest, we become enmeshed in our stories. Tension builds with overlapping plot lines and the characters within us and around us develop. Life gets complicated. We become overwhelmed by an ocean of stories, with random characters and events popping up everywhere.

The simple truth is we cannot know what happens next, nor can we control it. We live in a relative world of endless causes and conditions. There are too many variables at play for us to see the expansive pattern with our tiny human minds. We won’t ever be able to predict the ocean, yet we try.

When we attempt to predict the movements of the ocean, we often fall into what is interestingly enough, a (somewhat) predictable pattern. It begins with great hope. A foothold is revealed, a hint of what is to come. The story takes shape; we can clearly see how we want it go. We decide what must be done, and we’re ready to do it. Through our energy and attention, we invest in the outcome. Sometimes our expectations are met, and we get excited. We are right; things are unfolding like we planned! So we keep digging in, our heart and mind set on having a certain experience. Then the variables come into play. We juggle, we shift, we make bargains with Eternity. Anxiety comes knocking at the door. Uncertainty and fear arrive, bearing doubt. Our efforts are no longer rewarded. We slog through, as wave after wave crashes over us. Soon we find ourselves drowning. We cling to our desire through anger and frustration. Nothing is going as planned. We feel lost, unsure of what to do. Our certainty is gone, and we are lost.

At this point, we keep floundering and grasping or we let go and trust. Free will gives us the opportunity to either run away from the Light or towards it. Ultimately, that is the only variable. Will we follow our fear and remain caged by our ego’s attachments? Or will we follow Love, the movement of Light, even when we cannot see where it is taking us?

Letting go means facing the fear of not knowing what comes next. It means making a decision to trust Light. We cannot control the ocean. However, we can surf the ever-changing waves of existence.

The Path is a surfboard we use to keep us aligned with Light. It is the raft we use to cross the great water, to the shores of Nirvana. The Lineage we embrace shapes the board; it provides a framework within which to connect to formless Light. The teachers we meet help us refine our techniques for riding the waves. And all along the way, we discover friends within the Sangha who remind us to laugh and always look for the Light no matter how big or flat the waves. Every moment, we all face the variable: do we choose the story of how we think we want life to be, or do we choose Light?

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

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Published inBuddha Lessons / Mindfulness