How To Look at the World Anew
Everything in this world is subject to change and renewal. We are a flow of yin and yang, of sense experiences and dreams, an ever-changing river of feelings and thoughts. Consistency is the realm of the press release; inconsistency is the reality of life. Relax. Hold the paradox of change and eternity with grace rather than judgment or fear. Then you will see that in this imperfect world, there is another kind of joy. We have the ability to be perfectly our love.
We have the laughter of the wise, the freedom to choose our spirit no matter the circumstances. We have the freedom to love anyway. To love amidst the glorious, terrifying, and unshakable beauty of it all. We can have the wisdom and courage to care sweetly in this fleeting, evanescent play of days.
One of my teachers, Ajahn Chah, held up his favorite Chinese teacup and said, “To me, this cup is already broken. Because I know this, I can drink from it and appreciate it fully. And when it falls off the table, I understand. It’s the way things are.”
The seasons are changing, and Spring is here. Reality demands flexibility. You can start over, backtrack, repeat, change your mind, learn a new way, bend, sway, lose it and find it, try another gate, turn around, follow another path, do everything in moderation, including moderation. You can learn to be present with curiosity, and discover what happens next.
Discover the ease of making mistakes, trusting, failing, letting yourself be carried by something larger than yourself. When Rossini was composing his great chorus in G minor, he accidentally dipped his pen in a medicine bottle instead of the inkpot. “It made a blot, and when I dried it with sand , it took the form of a natural, which instantly gave me the idea of the effect which the change from G Minor to G Major would make, and to this blot all the beautiful effect of the chorus is due.”
With the freedom from perfection comes forgiveness and compassion for yourself and others. A young army officer who had a hot temper and a history of anger and stress-related problems was ordered by his colonel to attend an eight-week mindfulness training to reduce his level of stress. One day, after attending classes for several weeks, he stopped for groceries on his way home. He was in a hurry and a bit irritated, as he often was. When he took his cart to check out, there were long lines. He noticed the woman in front of him had only one item but wasn’t in the express line. She was carrying a baby and as she got to the cashier they stopped to talk. He became irritated. She was in the wrong line, talking, and holding everyone up. How selfish, he thought. Then she passed the baby to the cashier and the cashier spent a moment cooing over the child. He could feel his anger rising. But because he’d been practicing mindfulness, he started to become aware of the heat and tightness in his body, and he could feel the pain. He breathed and relaxed. When he looked up again he saw the little boy smiling. As he reached the cashier, he said, “That was a cute little boy.” She responded, “Oh, did you like him? That’s my baby. His father was in the Air Force but he was killed last winter. Now I have to work full-time. My mom tries to bring my boy in once or twice a day so I can see him.”
Look anew at the world around you. With mindful loving awareness, you can see all around you with the eyes of care and wonder. You can put your faith in tenderness and the renewal of spring. The philosopher Nietzsche describes how, beyond our ideas and ideals, our hearts can open. “Out of the abyss of great suspicion, one returns newborn having shed one’s skin, more ticklish and sarcastic, with a more delicious taste for joy, with a more tender tongue for all good things, with gayer senses, with a second dangerous innocence in joy, more childlike and yet a hundred times subtler than one has ever seen before.”
This is an invitation to freedom. It is yours for the taking.
For more from Jack, go to jackkornfield.com.
Jack Kornfield trained as a Buddhist monk in the monasteries of Thailand, India, and Burma, and he is one of the key teachers to introduce Buddhist mindfulness practice to the West. He is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society and of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California and a best-selling author. Jack was one of the leaders at the first-ever White House Buddhist Leadership Conference in 2015.
This essay was featured in the Jan. 20th edition of The Sunday Paper, Maria Shriver’s free weekly newsletter for people with passion and purpose. To get inspiring and informative content like this piece delivered straight to your inbox each Sunday morning, click here to subscribe.