Sitting on the cushion, facing the wall. Eight hrs a day for the past four days. I notice that my facial muscles are clenched: tightness at the back of my jaw, tension around my eyes. Try to call up the slight buddha-like smile, thinking it might melt the furrow between my brows. Open mouth wide, crack, release. Think happy thoughts—no, stop thinking! Breathe slower. Watch breath. Relax. IGNORE the tension. Be with it, just be with it (oh shut up). Ouch. Start again…
Then, the mini-epiphany. The revelation of the blindingly obvious. Through all this effort to oh-so-equanimously be with it, there is a worm in the apple of my sincere attempts. The worm is called hope. For all my intention to be present with this experience, I am hoping that the experience will change. I am hoping that I can fix the problem. I am believing there is a problem to be fixed, and that there can only be one really satisfactory outcome: that outcome being, that somehow, my damn facial muscles will relax. Hope is the worm corrupting my practice. What if I just accept that this is how this experience is going to be, and it might change…or it might not? It might get ‘better’, or it might get ‘worse’. Who knows? What if I approach this experience as complete, without holding out for any kind of resolution? What if I just accept that the moment is completely perfect and fascinating, as is? What if I let go of hope?
Ah ha. Lightbulb on.
To hope is to set conditions and limitations on experience. To hope is to defer contentment. To hope is to say that things can only be good if they can be like this. Hopes are fantasies based on stories I already know—but the Universe is so much bigger than that! Who would have imagined, for instance, that my tiny dream home would come in the form of a 1979 Chevy schoolbus? My hopes could never have conjured up that.
I’m not saying that there is no point in cultivating what makes me healthy, or in renouncing what causes me suffering. I’m not suggesting that one should just roll up in a ball (or plant one’s ass on a cushion) and resign from the world. Ya gotta keep trying. What I’m saying is, that in spite of all my best intentions and determination, things will unfold as they will. Everything will change, and anything may persist—for how long, who can say. There is no point in waiting until the perfect conditions are in place, until all hopes are fulfilled, to live life to the max.
I experience loneliness. I experience confusion. I experience financial stress. I experience pain. Can there be only one solution to these problems; only one acceptable outcome? I might find a partner, a life path, some cash for the rent. I might get my muscles to relax. Or I might not. I can hope til I am blue in the face and it won’t make a bit of difference. All that hoping just serves to distract me, from the marbled magnificence of what is.