This Is A Self-Adjusting Universe
I remember reading this beautiful nugget of wisdom in a book by Ajahn Amaro, a Buddhist monk practicing in the Thai forest tradition. He wrote that if you just applied neutral awareness to an issue, to something you were otherwise perceiving as a problem, it would naturally begin to resolve itself. “This is a self-adjusting universe,” he wrote. Just the application of a relaxed awareness and neutral observation of “the problem” is enough to begin to transform it. The universe knows what to do. This made me reflect on the many times I scheduled future suffering for myself with the unskillful ways of my thinking.
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You see, we live in a culture that encourages us to be somebodies. We spend our entire life force trying to be somebody. The trouble is, we forget that we are already somebody, it’s already done. So, we begin to strive to realize an idea of our future selves that we cultivated in some past point of reference.
We don’t realize that the desire we had in the past to become or achieve something at some point in the future was itself born of temporary causes and conditions. They’re not just temporary, they’re also arbitrary. It’s an unskillful mind that creates these goals in the first place, that fixates on them and that proceeds to torture itself until they are achieved or until another desire supplants them. For, in fact, there is no failure. Failure is merely the supplanting of one desire with another. Ceasing to strive for a goal, for that is “failure,” is nothing more than supplanting the desire to achieve the goal with the desire to be free from its lack of achievement.
When you start to see the whole life cycle of your desires, how they arise, how they persist, how they subside and how they desist, it becomes imprudent to create more. But of course you always create more, you just start to see them in a mellower light, that’s when you really begin to enjoy them, to appreciate them whether they’re fulfilled or not.
What to Do with Unskillful Desires
I am still living with the consequences of unskillful desires I created several years ago. I still live the bittersweet pain of not having been able to make them come to pass, but now I can see through the ghostliness of this bitter-sweetness, I see it too for the temporary illusion it is, because it functions on the basis of so many assumptions of truth that may in fact not be true at all.
I’ve assumed that to have X would make me happy and I mortify myself daily on the basis of this uncertain belief that a particular assumption is certain. When I cast my mind back on my life, I can easily identify many such moments and desires. And I can identify a person I no longer am who created them. That person would be very unhappy for not being able to access a helping of ice cream, for example, when in fact you couldn’t pay me to now eat all that refined sugar and excess calories. I was unskillful to be so upset about not having the ice cream back then, but I didn’t know that.
The mechanism for unskillful desires is the same for the child as it is for the adult. There comes a time when we outgrow the ones we’re holding on to and an even better time when we start to recognize that we’re about to create some new ones. That is the golden age of consciousness.
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