How You Deal with Life is what’s Important.
“Sometimes it can be very frightening to look at how we live today. Everything is accelerating, and we are so fast. Too fast. We need to stop for a moment, to look into ourselves, and ask, “What am I doing? And why?’ And what we’ll find is that there seems to be a contradiction: extraordinarily brilliant minds coupled with such weakness. We are so fragmented; it’s as if we’re all in pieces, and we have no idea how to thread it all together…
Sometimes, even those who follow the Dharma have difficulty finding the thread; instead they just find confusion and difficulties. When problems arise, they don’t know how to cope with them because they let them become so important. But actually the difficulties are not the issue; what happens to us in life is not the point, however much it seems to be.
The point, actually, is how we deal with it.
So everything, in a way, is a teaching, or a test. That’s the basic understanding. And if you have that thread running through your life, then you have understood the Dharma; the Dharma is in you.” ~ from “Losing the Clouds, Gaining the Sky.” Excerpt by Sogyal Rinpoche
So many of us come to spirituality as a result of powerlessness—we feel stuck; unable to relate with life honestly and efficiently. We clumsily stumble over our self-conscious ideas about how things should and shouldn’t be. Nothing ever goes off as planned. We feel frustrated, and project this frustration onto others: friends, enemies, politicians, the dog, or whoever. We think that life would be so much more enjoyable if everyone would just follow our directions. But they don’t, so we’re frustrated. This frustration is chronic frustration, because we believe that others have to change in order for us to be happy. So, we sit around feeling sad for ourselves waiting on everybody else to change so that we can be happy. This is personal powerlessness. This sort of poverty mentality is a symptom of a much deeper problem, namely self-centeredness.
Sitting at the center of our world is an idea about who or what we are. It is all the “I am this and I am that.” This image is contrived, so it is fragile. Therefore, we are very uptight. We take everything so seriously, because everything is seen as a threat. The ego keeps it’s eyes peeled for suspicious persons and behaviors; anything that might challenge it’s point of view or territory. In short, we are paranoid. We have become preoccupied with our own neurosis, because without it we think we might become a victim.
When we discover that we are creating all of these problems for ourselves things begin to unfold. Spiritual empowerment really begins with the recognizing that I am the author of all my dissatisfaction. If someone else is responsible for my problems, then I have to wait for the other person to fix my problems–I’m stuck. But, if I see that I am creating all of my own problems, then I can stop. Never again do you have to be stuck.
Powerlessness is the primary symptom of a belief system that suggests that our dissatisfaction is a problem with external origins, and therefore external solutions. When this sort of poverty mentality dominates our mind, we spend all of our energy trying to force reality to conform to our ideas about how things should or shouldn’t be. Much like herding cats, this is a hopeless task. We end up sitting on the couch like a sack of flour; frustrated and exhausted.
In reality, our dissatisfaction has internal origins, and therefore an internal resolution. We have been stuck or powerless, waiting for the world and it’s people to solve our problems. The moment we realize that our suffering is a pattern that was set in motion by internal causes and conditions, a certain amount of freedom is discovered. There is still pain, but we are no longer lying face down in our own shit waiting for someone else to pick us up. We have assumed responsibility for our own liberation, so the situation becomes workable. No problem is insurmountable or all that important. This is finding the thread.