For almost 22 years, I’ve been hearing my meditation teacher, Howard Cohn, say “You are what you’re looking for,” which I had reformulated as a question to hang out with in an open-ended way: What am I? I’d gotten as far as concluding that I’m awareness itself, but is that what I’m looking for? Why would I be looking for that? Listening to Howie speak last night, I finally understood what he’s been going on about since 1990, and no doubt prior.
He was talking about ease, and asked how we feel when we hear the word. I immediately feel more relaxed. The effect is so powerful and noticeable that, back when I had a job and therefore a Microsoft Outlook calendar, I had this daily appointment: “May I be at ease in my _____.” May I be at ease in my tension. May I be at ease in my irritation. May I be at ease in my lack of ease.
Howie pointed out on Tuesday that ease is inherent and unconditioned—there’s nothing that causes it, whereas if, for instance, we want to buy a bicycle, we need money. One of the conditions that must be in place for us to purchase a bicycle is that we must have enough money, but for ease, there is no preceding cause. It’s our very nature, meaning that when we take away all the elements that are constantly in flux, that’s what’s left. We literally are that pure consciousness, with its inherent qualities of ease and peace and, yep, joy.
This explains why, if we sit in meditation long enough, we eventually feel happy instead of miserable. There does seem to be something inherently benign, even more than benign, that permeates everything. Maybe it’s universal consciousness, and maybe that’s what we were before we were born and will be again after we die—what we are even now—and maybe while we’re in these bodies, enjoying the thousands of kinds of sense pleasures and tormenting ourselves with thousands of fears and longings, we forget that.
We can find many kinds of pleasure and happiness in this world, but the conditioned ones—the ones we have to get or create or that come into being over time—can’t be held onto. All things that have the nature to arise have the nature to pass away, naturally causing sorrow and suffering.
Aha! Got it! (Finally.) (And why didn’t he just say so?) If I’m looking for peace, spaciousness and happiness, they are already here, obscured by my thoughts of what I wish I had that I don’t have, and what I wish I didn’t have that I do have. Not to mention by fears and worries. Not to mention by taking thoughts to be reality. Not to mention by living in the imagined past and/or imagined future.
For about the millionth time, Howie read us Gendyn Rinpoche’s “spontaneous Vajra song” called “Free and Easy,” (you can find it online) and it was like hearing it for the first time.
It’s a matter of being here now, and now, and now. The now part is easy enough: outside of thoughts and memories, there’s nothing besides now and there never will be. As for here, here is kind of all there is, too.
Back in the realm of the relative, my sister has informed me that practically any job you can have involves selling your soul. Now she tells me! I am starting to think that it might not be such a bad thing to rake in money and health insurance in return for some small portion of my soul I’d hardly even notice was gone, perhaps a few acres from the back forty.
Of course I now think that if I had my job back, I’d make more of an effort to appreciate it. Therefore, what’s stopping me from appreciating being unemployed? Being upset about it would be stupid, because if I should happen to get another job, it’s almost guaranteed that then I’d miss these days of complete freedom, of being able to sleep in, of being able to cycle to the park during the day.
What would Gendyn Rinpoche’s career advice be? In his song, he says, “Far better to simply let the entire game happen on its own, springing up and falling back like waves … .” I believe this—not that if I sit in my comfortable chair reading, a job will eventually hurl itself through the window, but that one thing leads to another, that the whole web of conditions is mutating lawfully, largely beyond my control. This doesn’t excuse me from taking action, but there is much beyond my control, so from my perspective, everything is kind of happening on its own.
Life is unfolding naturally, and at some point, I’ll find myself with a job, or I won’t. I’ll continue to live indoors, or I won’t. I’ll die in a homeless shelter or I won’t. The entire thing is evolving in an orderly fashion, and all I can really do is plant whatever positive seeds come to mind today, and take whatever actions seem constructive, finishing at night with a consideration of what in the day brought enjoyment.
I rarely lie awake in bed worrying about what bad things might happen. At that point, there’s nothing more I can do or have to do. I’m completely free to relax and enjoy my descent into the dreamworld. Also, anyone who is serious about her worrying does it during the daylight hours, when she can bring her utmost to bear on it.