The past two days I’ve hardly been able to leave the house I’ve been so ill. That doesn’t mean I’ve been idle, of course. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to having a job in which all you need is a Macbook and a reliable internet connection.
But although I’ve been working (thank god, or I’d go insane from boredom otherwise), it did give me a rather welcome space to sit back and reflect. I listened to some of my favourite spiritual podcasts. I had documentaries on Taoism and Shinto playing in the background as I worked. Now I have a deeply cynical streak; I know some of this New Age philosophy is utter bullshit wrapped in compassion, too often designed to part the vulnerable from their money. But reading books of ancient Eastern philosophy and learning about their spiritual wisdom, I can’t help but think that they were far wiser about religions than we in the west ever were.
Whether it’s Shinto, Taoism, Buddhism or Zen, the same themes repeat themselves.
I realised that somewhere I’d heaped so much pressure on myself I’d forgotten to take a step back and just..be. It doesn’t mean my mind or my ambition are any less dimmed, but rather there are ways to go about achieving our goals which don’t cause destruction to ourself and everyone around us.
I’ve always found it far too easy to slip into a negative frame of mind, to find myself furious with people. And, really, as I get older I find I have less and less tolerance for the world and its ego.
But perhaps rather than desperately trying to wrestle the world into seeing our point of view, we can build up enough of our inner strength to not have to care. There is a great liberty to not caring, I find. A job is just a job. Friends are just friends. They may enrich our lives, and hopefully they do, but they shouldn’t define our lives. I’ve had horrible jobs and bad friends before, the fact I don’t now is something I’m beyond grateful for. But beyond those, beyond the material confines, there should be a place inside me that is content with just being me. Meditation teaches us this, to find our heart centre. In truth, I don’t think I’ve fully developed that part of myself yet. I think a part of me is still too focused on the material. Using other people and other things to prop myself up. Letting my frustrations with myself and with other people break out and fly free.
But I’m trying.
Perhaps in the end that’s all we can do. Perhaps the real inner strength and personal progress doesn’t come from grandiose revolutions of character, but just improving ourselves one bit at a time.