Living What’s Waiting

August 27, 2023

Provocative title, eh?

I want to be clear: I’m all for creating vision, goals, objectives—plans for your life.  But after all that envisioning & strategizing is completed, the wisdom of Joseph Campbell rings truest in my ears:

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

Buddhist teaching on the concept of “equanimity” also feels important here. Equa-what?  you might be wondering?  The English word refers to a state of calm & balance.  But equanimity is often misinterpreted to mean indifference & unconcern for fellow beings.  In fact, the equivalent word in ancient Pali & Sanskrit suggests more complexity: an evenness & unshakeable freedom of mind that can’t be upset by gain or loss, pleasure or pain. 

Sometimes equanimity is described as “standing in the middle;” Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh used the metaphor of climbing the mountain to be able to look over the whole situation, not bound by one side or the other.

Freedom, indeed!

We in the West are so focused on becoming empowered by our “right” choices & having control over our destiny.  While a clear North Star makes a productive & “successful” life a lot easier to attain, there’s a trap lurking just beyond our daily planners: the suffering caused by our grasping (for what seems positive & pleasurable) & our resistance (to what seems negative & difficult). 

Reality check: We actually can control our attitude toward whatever unfolds with or without our influence or permission– That’s it.  So, when Buddhist nun, teacher & author Pema Chodron suggests we become more mindful of our thoughts & reactions in order to recognize our attraction & aversion before they escalate into grasping & negativity—her wisdom also feels very relevant! 

In Buddhist tradition, this heightened awareness is done primarily through “formal” mindfulness meditation.  Even 10 min. a day can make a significant difference in the way we handle our thoughts, feelings & physical sensations; even that amount of investment in our inner terrain can help us better accept the uncontrollable aspects of our lives.  

I’m so grateful for the mindfulness practice I’ve honed over the years.  Frankly, considering the rampant unraveling of so much in our world today—at home & aboard—I don’t think I’d be sane, as kind to myself, or nearly as tolerable without it! 

What about you?  Do you spend adequate time inside your head exploring your cravings & resistance to what’s within & beyond your control?

We all get hooked by our hopes & fears.  Standing in the middle or on top of the mountain & being able to view the entire landscape of our life requires commitment, patience & support.  But that equanimity, that letting go, is where genuine happiness & freedom are experienced. 

If you’d like to explore the practice of mindfulness to help increase your ability to accept the life that’s “waiting” for you, I’d be happy & able to lend some of that support. 



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