I love the old chap that I look after. But when he starts talking about immigration, I have to bite my tongue, and do my best to be tolerant. I began to reflect on the issue from a Buddhist/Taoist perspective, and I want to share the results with you.
People’s intolerance of immigrants ultimately stems from selfishness and delusion, which is the cause of all suffering. Being born in a particular place, we begin to identify with it, and trick ourselves into thinking we own it, just because we happened to be conceived here. We get territorial, like a bunch of sparrows, squabbling over the best spot in a hedgerow.
How very far removed this is from the beliefs of our aboriginal ancestors, who saw the land as their mother. The land was not something that belonged to them – it was something to which they belonged. They were the land; the land was them; there was no distinction between identity and environment – both were perfectly merged in a harmonious outpouring of consciousness.
So, to those self-righteous (and selfish) nationalists, let me just say this:
YOU DO NOT OWN YOUR COUNTRY
YOU DO NOT EVEN OWN YOUR PLANET
THIS IS WORLD IS JUST SOMEWHERE WE LODGE
UNTIL WE ROT INTO SOMETHING ELSE
Everything about our being is temporary. How could we be said to own something which will inevitably outlast us – isn’t that just the most ignorant of errors? Even the trees in your garden will outlive you. We have no more permanence than a fire that will burn out once the fuel is used up.
The only thing we could even minorly be said to own is our experience – our immortal consciousness. But our consciousness is only infinite because it is part of The Tao – everything we claim to have, we borrow on loan from it. Even our experiences are just a tiny blot in the unimaginably vast ocean of infinite being – so who would isolate a single water molecule in an ocean and claim that is us? Even that is vain clutching.
WE DO NOT OWN ANYTHING
NOT EVEN WHAT WE MISTAKENLY TO BE OURSELVES
But we are everything. So, if there is one thing that you cling to, cling to that – cling to that recognition of everything as being an endless expression of your infinite being.
And, for the Love of God – start being good to yourself.
Our ancestors put in place many rituals that were specifically designed to give an outlet to purge lingering, unexpressed emotions. From Confucians to Jews, many systems had specific systems for expressing grief and sadness, which, sadly, we seem to have lost, as the inefficacy of psychotherapy and mass-medication points out. Our present systems are emotionally unhealthy, and we are experiencing the emotional debt of that.
Recently, I attended a funereal for someone I cared for very much – an old lady I had looked after, who had suffered from Alzheimer’s, and who died from a pulmonary embolism. I was asked to speak at her funereal, which I knew would be a challenge, but which I was very keen to do.
As it was one of my first experiences of genuine loss, I was quite disappointed by the disingenuousness of the proceedings. Sure, the funereal service was poignant, and well-put together another enough. But I wanted to see crying – I wanted to see people coming together to express their grief fully in the security of eachother’s compassion. But, in typical British fashion, emotions were kept below the surface, and I only saw a few who had the courage to share their tears. Though both myself and my fellow speaker almost started sobbing during our speeches, we both held together, and were applauded for our fortitude.
This was a far cry from Jews rending their garments, Australian Aborigines cutting their flesh, or a Confucian student mourning the death of his parents for three years. What good is having the strength to carry on through pain, if that pain carries on within us? Their must be some healthy vehicle for exorcising it. Much better a temporary scarring of the flesh than a permanent scar inside.
In the Analects of Confucius, after being criticized for mourning his pupil openly and un-self-consciously, Confucius said that we cannot be excessive in grieving for someone we care about. And he was right. We need to be present with our grief, and squeeze it out, to the very last drop. Being prim and proper is pure cowardice if we cannot be sincere and authentic, in expressing our emotions. Do not be ashamed of how you feel – but neither wear your hurt feelings as a defiant badge of pride. Just let them be for as long as they’ll be, and be ready to heal yourself once you reach the other side.
One of the purposes of meditation and mindfulness is to make us more present. Through cultivating our awareness, we can live fully in the moment, without being held back by the past, or feeling anxiety about the future. It helps us to experience life in a much richer, more subtle and sensitive way.
But being truly mindful is not just about being fully present when experiencing bliss; it also means being fully present whilst experiencing sorrow, grief, and suffering. This might sound strange to some people. Who would want to be fully present whilst in pain? Surely we should want to try to lessen and ameliorate our pain as much as possible, and use whatever physical or psychological painkillers we have at our disposal?
But numbness is the opposite of the truth. A follower of The Way is dedicated to fully experiencing the truth, however it manifests itself.
Naturally, our practice revolves around making our minds strong and secure enough to prevent pain from occurring to begin with. But once our pain has entered into us, we must accept it, and express it healthily. We cannot simply ignore it or misplace it, like a man who would much rather pretend his living room wasn’t on fire, and get burned up in the process; we must accept that pain as part of our present experience, and flow along with it, until it disappears, as it surely will.
Someone who has been on the path for long enough soon learns not to fear pain. Pain is always transient and never lasts. It is an impermanent part of existence – but it is not existence itself. This does not mean that we go looking for pain – just that we do not allow ourselves to be distressed by it once it arises.
This is something that I have noticed in my own practice. When I feel anguish, sorrow, or grief, I still feel calm, in spite of my suffering. My inner peace does not disappear just because my emotions are in ascendant – it simply shines a little less brightly. I am not afraid of hurting, or how long I will hurt – I reflect that it is an essential, inescapable part of growth, and submit myself to it until it passes. This very submission, acceptance, and awareness of its temporary nature, makes pain pass so much quicker. Ignored pain is like debt – it doesn’t go away just because we ignore it – in fact, it increases. Until we can face it boldly and courageously, it will always be there lurking under the stairs.
My funk-rock single Mr Zeus Man is now available for purchase on Itunes for only £0.99p
For those of you who would like to try before you buy, you can listen to it for free on Youtube, Spotify or Soundcloud. Just search ‘Mr Zeus Man’ or ‘Reuben & the Rabbis’: Thank you all for listening and supporting. I’d love to hear from you if you dig it.
Hey Guys. I’ve been in the recording studio, recording the first single of my band, Reuben & The Rabbis. Please listen our song ‘Mister Zeus Man’ and share it if you like it. Perfect any fans of Frank Zappa, Talking Heads, or Psychedelic Rock/Funk in General:
Integration and disintegration
Hope feels as hard to hold
As a lubed-up squid
I push my disfigured bike home
Like a soldier carrying a corpse
Over his shoulder
Yin has wormed it way
Into the soil
Returning to the Womb
It’s hard not to feel helpless.
I crave your words
Like an alcoholic his poison
And dread them like a cockcrow
On The Day of Judgement
Though neither can ever sate me
My passage safer ensured
On a raft of unspoken words
Memory singing like a spurned bird
Seeking the experience that will not be returned.