Eastern philosophy has convinced me that just one invisible factor separates the psychotic facing the electric chair from a great being like Mahatma Gandhi — and that is karma. In order to evolve, it is essential we improve ourselves on all levels — and that begins with changing the root of our egocentric thought patterns. Practicing gratitude is a great way to do this, for it diverts the channel of our thoughts from negative to positive, even as it expands our appreciation of this dazzling cosmos and our role in it.
It is our responsibility to discover that we are all far greater than our bodies, our minds, and our circumstances. My own deeper quest began when I came to grips with the stark realization that mainstream life would never ever satisfy me, that when I assessed my worth in terms of shifting relative factors — appearance, talents, wealth, power — I was fighting a losing battle. There was always someone wittier, more talented, prettier and richer hovering in the wings. And even if I believed I was God’s gift to humanity, there was a fair chance no one else would perceive me that way; some might even see me as a major pain in the batootie.
As I graduated from the Cosmic University of Hard Knocks, spurred on by the whip of benevolent gods, I continued to seek that peace and joy that Indian rishis promise is our birthright. Many gurus — visible and invisible, human and non-human — enlivened my inward journey. Star among them is Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, who re-introduced the ancient wisdom technique of Self-Investigation or Vichara — which reveals to us that we are far more than our fabricated worldly identity — that we are the incandescent Self. When we begin to know ourselves in this way, what need to destroy the ephemeral, no matter how the external world treats us?
In his book Enlightened Courage: An Explanation of the Seven-Point Mind Training, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, a powerful Tibetan Buddhist teacher, says:
No one knows when, or how, death will come. Bubbles form on the surface of the water, but the next instant they are gone; they do not stay. It is just the same with this precious human body that we have managed to find. We take all the time in the world before engaging in spiritual practice, but who knows when this life of ours will simply cease to be?
Which makes it all the more critical for committed seekers of true liberation to be grateful for all the circumstances of our lives — negative and positive. It is by cultivating skillful means, by dwelling on our true nature when our relative circumstances suck, that we learn to transmute our worst experiences into the pure gold of wisdom, inevitably leading to that exquisite peace that surpasses all understanding.
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ancient truths, Mira….very true…..
Thanks for acknowledging that, Ajay — not everyone does as we both know! None of this is original – only the presentation is.
Dear Mira, “what does not kill us, it strengthens us!” This flu was an experience of suffering and of a good feeling when t suffering was over. After returning from the trip and a pilgrimage to Nepal, I got sick from the flu. Then I said to myself, that all well accumulated on this trip, squeeze out the bad in me. Lying in temperature, I thought of the day when the disease will be over and how that feeling will be good. And it really was!
Reading your blogs, I started to read again a book of Lama Gendun Rinpoche “Working With The Emotions” in which he wrote: “We are always ready to let our mind be taken over by these emotional states. But when it comes to actually experiencing the suffering that results, we are less enthusiastic. ”
I wish you a good health and a fresh mind.
Lama Gendun Rinpoche is right on — sometimes i look back on the decades of inner work I have done and wonder why I am still so prone to emotional slumps and the suffering they bring — fortunately the meditation I do directly melts suffering — and permanently — thank you Gordana!
Love that last paragraph, Mira.
Thanks Caroline — as cliched as that line is, it is one of my favorites for it is my ultimate goal.
Your thoughts and insights are very powerful in this piece, Mira. The only thing I would add is; when we fall into a “dark night of the soul” like Jasmine fell into, we can lose all sense of perspective of our place in this world. It is possible for people who “have it all” to fall between the cracks of life simply because the pain becomes to great to bear. I, too, faced such a state after leaving my marriage. Self-condemnation is a terrible demon. You are so correct in turning the focus to gratitude; particularly when we are in despair. For me, changing my outer environment seems to have helped pull me out of the spell of egoic suffering. Many thanks for the reminder that life is not always to be endured but to be celebrated by a grateful heart!
Yes, Dave, I agree and thought i had brought that out – but given the length of a post, it is difficult to describe all my thoughts around this very profound and disturbing subject. You had great wisdom in changing your environment — bravo! Most humans stick around and mope and spin their wheels. You did not. As for practicing gratitude no matter what, it is a habit I have cultivated that sees me through hard times….