Our minds have a true nature and it is enlightenment and peacefulness. So what happens to us as life continues in its flow? The oceans are calm and clear until they are stirred up by a storm or several storms. So what stirs us up?
When we mentally grasp onto things, problems or trials and cling to our wants, desires and worries, we lose our enlightened freedom and healing power. When we do this, we gain stress and exhaustion, suffering and overexcitement. It is as if a storm were sweeping the surface of the ocean.
Buddhists call this grasping at self. And we do and the harder we grasp, the more stressed and traumatized we become. Our minds do have the power to be joyful and to blossom into peace and contentment. We, our minds, are what makes the difference. Our minds can heal us or can make us very ill emotionally and physically.
Rich and poor alike can suffer from stress caused by external worries. Even millionaires suffer from anger, despair, and depression. They really do not get to enjoy true rest and peace, but they worry about how to keep what they have. They can’t enjoy who and what they are but are living for what they desire. Making money does not enslave us, but giving our lives over to what we are attracted to does.
Poor people become trapped by the struggle of life. They struggle to pay bills, keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. These are all important things. Often they can’t even enjoy the little they have for fear of incurring more pain.
Mother Teresa told a story about a small boy who was brought to the missionary sisters in Calcutta. They gave him a piece of bread and he hungrily ate half. He refused to eat any more. The sisters asked him why he wouldn’t eat more and he said because he might not get any more. The sisters assured him he could have more and he quickly ate the other half. This orphan was clinging to that half piece of bread because he understood what starvation felt like and that half slice was all he thought he had between him and starving.
We accumulate items for our homes but take little care of our minds and bodies. A Tibetan monk told a story of a friend of his who was chopping wood and he lost control of one chop and it cut through his new leather shoe. His foot was uninjured and that was good. The monk looked at his friend and expressed his gratitude about his foot and then said that if his friend hadn’t had the shoes on, he would have cut his foot. The monk’s friend looked at the monk and declared that if he hadn’t had on his new shoes, he would have injured his foot but it would have healed. The shoe would not heal. In a poor country like Tibet, shoe leather is valued. It is a funny way of looking at things, but we often put material objects before our minds and bodies.
Relaxing our hold on self brings us peace of mind, and with peace of mind nothing can harm us. Even if we suffer, the right attitude will help us carry our emotions more lightly. Simply by opening our minds, we can be surprised by our own inner strength.
Neurologists are working hard to understand how the mind works and they are making real progress. Letting go of things and the people who are toxic in our lives does make a difference. The difference is being free to discover and enjoy the wonders in the world and in our lives.
Meditation does help us with the letting go and it helps us to hold on to love, peace, enlightenment and compassion. There is no one right way of meditation, but it is the act of opening oneself up to experience Divinity that enables us to let go of what is causing us suffering.
Along our journey in this life, we can serve others, create organizations which will help others, provide protection, give gifts, say prayers, and pay respect to others and to Mother Earth.
“When you speak, speak with ease, relevance, clarity, and pleasantness,
Without desire and hatred,
In gentle tones and at moderate length.
When you look, look with honest and loving eyes, thinking:
‘By depending on this kind person
I will become fully enlightened.’ ”
“God said to Moses, ‘You saw the moon rise from your chest.
I filled you with Divine light. I am God, Yet, when I got sick,
you never visited me!’
Moses said, ‘Transcendent one, I don’t know what you’re
talking about. Please set me straight.’
God repeated, ‘When I was sick, you never came.’
Moses said, ‘Perfect One, You have no imperfections! I don’t
understand. What are you talking about?’
God said, ‘One of my lovers was ill, and you ignored it.
I am him. His sickness is my sickness. Think it over.’ ”
—Rumi, from Rumi Wisdom
The suffering of humankind. The storm sweeping the ocean. Photograph and copyright by Barbara Mattio 2015
The peacefulness and beauty of the beach. Photograph and copyright by Barbara Mattio 2015