Some thoughts from this morning.
Last night I had a long talk with a close friend about the struggles we face in confronting what we can no longer do in older age and have to let go of.
It's my experience that we don't see how attached we are to external life and its influences. The Buddhists, of course, called this attachment, but Gurdjieff called it identification — the failure to distinguish between myself and the external world, so that I become, inwardly, a series of relatively static objects instead of a living, breathing being.
This process of becoming a series of things — fixed ideas and objects, like stones— inside is an insidious one, because it happens gradually over time as a result of desires that pull me in one way or another. Each one of those desires attaches itself to a static thing, an idea, about how life will be better if I get this or that. As I indulge in that habit, just following my desires, I gradually forget about the idea that maybe life is already good, right here, right now. Maybe the goodness is in living itself and not in the things.
It's possible to have a definite and objective experience that living is good in itself, before anything else happens, but in order to do that, I have to become much closer to who and what I am as a Being — to become closer to the sensation of my body, the intelligence of my mind, and the compassionate intimacy of my feeling, before they encounter the outward world. Each of these parts of me is a Being of its own that can help me discover the goodness in life that comes first. Really, it comes first, before all the things that happen.
There is an astonishing possibility available in this action, but I have to be willing to turn in an opposite direction from the way that my desires and my tyrannical reliance on intellect lead me. There is a natural intelligence, a natural depth within me that has an enormous capacity for living first, and encountering the things in life only afterwards — but I have to allow it its authority, allow it to begin living and breathing first, before I become identified with external life.
If I begin to understand this, no matter what comes along, I can let go of it. The smallest things become a reason for living; and they do it all day long. It doesn't mean I walk away from the big questions like retirement funds and whether or not my knees work properly; but it does mean that life now flows into me as I develop a completely different capacity for appreciation. Oddly, developing a greater respect and appreciation for my own being automatically causes me to deepen my respect and appreciation for others. First, I need to see the difference between my ideas about myself and life, and what life actually is. Life is a force that flows into my Being. If I am there to form a relationship with it in this moment, everything is different.
Lee van Laer is a Senior Editor at Parabola Magazine.