Life is hard, this is just the way it is. Life is made of the stuff of hardness. There’s no getting around this, and it is true for everyone in the world. We all have our troubles, we all have our pains. Weather it’s a direct experience of not having enough, of watching something beautiful crumble, of getting burned by a fire or breaking a bone, or losing someone or something dear; weather it’s the knowledge that these good times will not last, and tomorrow will be just another day at the office, or the sensation that enough is never really quite enough: Life is hard, and it’s different for everyone, but it’s always there.
We can squabble and argue that some have it worse than others, that we shouldn’t complain because someone has it worse than us, or that some have no right to complain because of how good they seem to have it, but all of that will not stand to take away the basic, simple truth that life is hard, right now. Even though we might be able to say that, “things are pretty good right now,” we know that that doesn’t last forever, and we know that that isn’t true everywhere, for everyone. We know that, even though spring comes, winter is just around the corner, always, and it’s always winter somewhere in the world. We know that, even though we might be enjoying good health, that we cannot rely on that forever, we know that everything that we have, all we consider to be ours, and all we consider of ourselves, will one day be taken from us by life, and that is hard. We are subject, and in no way immutable. Things may seem stable, some foundations are built to last what seems forever, but it is never forever, grounds have a way of shifting under our feet, and that is very, very hard. Life is hard.
There is no shelter from this. There is no way around it. We build up structures and prop up our views and ideologies to get around this all of the time. We say things like, “You should just be grateful for what you have,” and yes, we should, but life doesn’t stop there, life doesn’t stop being hard just because we can touch on gratitude, it never has. When what you are grateful for is taken away, what do you do, then? When your ideologies are disproven by life, and you have no ground to stand on, what then? When the company you work for files bankruptcy, what then? What ground is there in life that you know can last? What shelter is there from life itself? People often submit to the mysterious plan of their God, but the ups and downs of life do not stop pouring down upon us just because we believe that they are a part of something that we cannot understand. As a matter of fact, it is true that we cannot understand them directly, and they happen, plan or no plan, and they make life hard. We get intoxicated by the joys of life, and find ourselves with the bitter morning after of time passing, eroding what we once clung so steadfast to. Always ups and downs. We have to look at them, we have to find a way to deal with them, directly, we cannot just attribute the hardness of life to some Plan and look the other way. Keep this in mind at all times. If I were sick and suffering, I think it better to know why the suffering arises and how it is ceased than to subscribe to a Plan I know nothing about and look the other way.
Why is it so hard? Why is our experience full of so much…stress? It is this way because of the way that we think, the way that we assume, the way that we think that life ought to be either this way or that way. We are always trying to get life to live up to how we think that it should or could be, because, well, that’s just “how it is”. We measure life according to our idea of what “the plan” is. That’s the way that we were raised, or the way that we “figured out” that life should be, or maybe how someone told us that life should be, or maybe we just assume. We are always trying to get things to fit together in some way, to add up to, or amount to something. We are always chasing after something, catching ourselves being all wrought up over the way things seem to be, always adding weight to things. It’s our perspective, our hang-ups, the way we are so utterly, blindly fixed on the things that we want, the things that we seem to prefer, and nobody wants to see this sometimes not so subtle hand that they have in their own experience of the hardness of life. Nobody wants that. It’s so much easier to just sit back and say, “Hey, this is just the way things are, the hand life dealt me, and this over here, this is the way things ought to be, and they don’t add up, and it’s not my fault!” We all have that voice in us that does that, that reinforces our blamelessness and props up our assumptions and our views, and misery along with joy. That same certain voice that tells us that the solution is to be even more fixed when things don’t add up.
We get so utterly fixed on our ideas of what we think we want, what we think we should get, of who and what we think we are, or want or think we ought to be. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s the way that we want it, the way that we don’t want it; it’s in the way that we build our lives up on an assumption of what we believe we deserve, what we believe we have earned, or what we owe the world. We all want to feel a certain way, we struggle for good feelings and for people to see us a certain way. We struggle to be seen a certain way, some of us struggle to be seen as someone beyond being seen a certain way, and that’s one that really get’s you! We struggle for what we are fixed upon, so much so that we forget to meet life on life’s terms, not ours. We forget that it has always been that way, and always will, life on life’s terms, not ours. We think that because we have a way of looking at things, a way to have it figured out, or a way of saying that it’s not life’s terms, but God’s, that we are somehow beyond having to think about how fixed we are in our ideas of things. It’s like we get a piece of the truth, and we think we have the whole thing in our sights, but we don’t. We just like to act that way, on the inside, when nobody is looking.
Life is hard, made of the stuff of hardness, and we suffer it because of the way that we want what we want. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Since there is a reason why, a beginning, an origination… there is not only a way to understand it, an ending, a cessation, a way to undermine the suffering that is happening now, inside, there is also a way to prevent the experience of the hardness of life, the suffering and confusion, a way to uproot the reason why.
Seeing clearly is the first step to being free. Being willing to see clearly, and setting the aim to be free, this is step one. We have to admit what we see, and want to be free of our entanglement. We have to stop feeding into the beast. We have to put down the bottle, stop talking shit, stop half-assing our lives. Stop doing things that keep the reason why so… strong. Just stop reaching for the fixation, stop chasing after the feeling you want so bad, and pay attention. Just seeing is not enough, but it is important. Shedding light on the ignorance of our ways, this has to happen, we have to be willing to be wrong, wrong about our approach and assumption, in order to see, to admit, and to stop. This is hard work, so we have to strengthen our minds and become the masters and mistresses of our own castles, we have to learn how to overcome the affliction of obsessive fixation. We have to stop holding on so damn strong, and let life be life. We have to be ok with that, and accept our basic vulnerability, and the common humanity found in the realization that we all share that, each and every one.
Life is always changing, always coming and going, and nothing will sustain you for long. Certainty in life only comes with the knowledge of death, so why hold so strongly? Harmony, peace, and happiness comes with a willingness to meet life on life’s terms, not our own. Our terms want permanence and ownership, life’s term is certain change, constant change, never anything staying. So stay with that, come back to that, make sanity from that. It is not personal, things work because they work that way. That is all. We suffer the neurosis of clinging when we want to make it all about “me”, when we want life to give us a ground that doesn’t shift and change, when we try to make it “all add up”, when we go chasing after a feeling, or we base our life on a feeling. Those feelings, and the situations that uphold them, are always on the go. Let them. Let them go, let them come and go, let them calm down. The water only calms when you stop stirring it, stop kicking. Then you can begin to see what is at the bottom, and then you can see what you need. Upheaval will come, and it will go. Slowly, with patience and determination, we unbind and release our equanimity by breaking the barrier of the fear of vulnerability, letting go of the image of ourselves that we attempt to use as a barrier against that vulnerability, that we blindly, reactively prop up and try to live up to; with wisdom we let that image go by accepting the basic nature of life. The deeper we see, the more we do this, the more free we are from our inner turmoil, delusions and hallucinations. The level of our suffering is directly relative to the level of our self clinging, so let yourself go, and be free.
Unbinding ourselves. This is what we need. Unbinding with wisdom, with insight and clarity; with resistance to fixation and a willingness to stand against the stream of our old momentum. No subscription to any ideology or belief, or blind attachment to our desires, or barricade against our fears will keep the ups and downs at bay, will put an end to the constant change and flow of life. Seeing our habitual madness for what it is, simple grasping at a fleeting feeling, flinchingly reacting to life for being what it is, instead of taking a look at it as it is, seeing it, allowing it, in our mind, to be what it naturally is. Simply that. Then, we can do what we need to do in life with a steady mind, a steady heart, a steady conviction to unbind the misery of the world.