Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chasing Experiences

Many of us spend our lives chasing experiences. We think if we accumulate enough of the right experiences, we will be happy or if we could find that perfect experience that would last forever, we would be fulfilled. But seeking a new or different experience to satiate something in ourselves will ultimately leave us unsatisfied. Why is that? It is because we are complete without any experience. We do not need to "do" anything to reside in the so-called kingdom of heaven. In fact, sometimes "doing" gets in the way.

A second related part is that seeking a different experience than the current one is to reject current reality. Often, if we look deeply enough, we are seeking that different experience to fulfill a belief in a story of who we are.

WHY do you need anything different than what you have at this moment?

I am rich so I have money. I am smart so I speak well or solve problems well. I am ugly, so few people find me attractive. They are all stories we tell ourselves, in which we believe and then seek out experiences in relationship to that story. If I told you you are nothing and that so am I, and so we all are, how would you feel? The degree of your resistance is the degree to which you are shackled.

You are also everything, every iota.

What if we embraced each moment as it appeared? For example, if you were feeling sad, could you embrace the sadness fully. Where would you feel it? What color would it be? What shape would it be? How big would it be? What would it be trying to tell you? I suspect that when many people encounter sadness in their life, an attitude of " this should not be here exists" They meet the sadness with further injury by condemning it and themselves. Arguing with reality IS suffering. The more we are able to meet that experience with love the more it can dissolve into the nothing that it is too.

Recently, in my own meditations, I noticed that I was seeking rather than resting. A few weeks ago I had a particularly wonderful meditation and I found myself clinging to that experience. I found myself trying to recreate it rather than just letting my moment to moment experience just be. It created suffering. Even within our spritual "practice" we can chase experiences. When we achieve a particular state of bliss or happiness through meditation or listening to a satsang do we find 0urselves yearning to recreate that experience in our lives? Do we become atttached to finding that state again rather than resting in whatever state we are in? I am not saying that we should not have experiences that are blissful or wonderful or surround ourselves with "things" that we enjoy, but do you realize that for anything you enjoy the source of that happiness rests not in that activity or object but actually in you. Only love is real and you are love. It is the love that you bring to "it" that makes all the difference. It is the true seeing of whatever "it" is that makes it beautiful or exciting or wonderful. Everything just wants to be seen. In fact, the most fundamental act of love may be really seeing something. All "things" just "want" to be noticed for what they are. Our experiences are no different. When we chase experiences, we reject the present moment. Its like we are saying this moment is not good enough. I want the next. Its as though we are not capable of giving love to this moment. For any "difficult experience" can you try to give it love too?

Experiment: "Experiment with giving love" to every experience that appears in your life. Can you notice the experience? What happens to the experience after you notice it? What happens when you sit with it without clinging to it, trying to turn it into something else or pushing it away?

There is story within Buddhism that even after the Buddha became enlightened he would still be visited by the demon tempter Mara but Buddha would simply invite Mara to tea. This is a wonderful and loving image. For any experience that is supposedly "negative" can you invite it to tea. This poem by Rumi also captures the idea of not running from our experiences The Guest House

But isn't this a way of thinking paralyzing? How would you ever extract yourself from an unhealthy or dangerous situation?

Accepting the moment, or giving love to the moment does not mean that you cannot act. For instance let us say that someone has been physically abusing you in a relationship. Accepting the moment does not mean you are are "ok" with the person hitting you. It means that you deeply acknowledge that the reality IS that that person has been hitting you. That act in and of itself could take an enormous amount of courage and acceptance of the present moment. It could mean a deep acknowledgent of one's own present moment feelings towards the situation. It means, you deeply notice what has been transpiring and you take action from that place; including removing yourself from your circumstances.

Everything changes from moment to moment. It is born, lives and passes away. The more we can be blown by this silent wind, and not chase after some experience which will not satisfy us anyway, the more we can surrender to this moving current, paradoxically, the more joyful we will find ourselves.