Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Feeling Good All The Time

I completely understand the longing and desire to feel good all the time. After all, we are wired to pursue feeling good and avoid feeling bad as a mechanism of survival. Of course we will choose comfort, safety and feeling good over discomfort, unsafety and feeling bad. It's the only reason why we are still around - because instead of choosing to stay in the freezing cold, we chose to seek temperatures that allow us to remain alive. Instead of choosing foods that taste awful and are poisonous, we chose to eat nourishing foods that taste delicious. Instead of choosing... well, we all get the point.

Fast forward a couple thousand of years and here we are. In a world were all of our past choices as a species led to the present times. A time when our desires and drives have remained the same, just that are completely different in content. Now, it's not a choice between staying in the freezing winter that will kill us due to hypothermia, now it's a choice of whether we want it to be 70 or 74 degrees according to our heating unit or air conditioner. Which will it be? Now it's not a choice of whether to go for that suspicious looking berry and that tried-and-true apple. Now it's whether we want a chocolate chip cookie or a slice of tiramisu. Our choices have changed a ton, wouldn't you say?

The answer is an obvious yes, and the irony is that studies have shown that the more choices we have, the more overwhelmed our brains get and the more stress we experience. Things were definitely simpler and easier when our choices were two and one was the obvious right one and one was the obvious wrong one. When we have hundreds of choices, our brain panics a bit and freezes a little. "What should I choose?" "What do you think?" "Which one is the best?" Questions we have all been asked by friends. 

But, shouldn't we be experts at choosing? Shouldn't we just KNOW what we want? Especially now that we have all this generational and collective practice? Seems like not. And THIS is EXACTLY WHY I love the ancient tradition of Zen. Because it brings me back to the beginning of time, where no phrase is wiser than something as simple as "Chop wood, carry water."

A very different message from the promises of spiritual enlightenment that I imagined as a tween that was just beginning to dive into spirituality. Back then, if someone tried to sell me Zen, I would have rejected it as quickly as I would have rejected anything that made any sense back when I was in my twenties. "Screw anything logical, rational, reasonable and true," covertly said the resistant and self-centered voice in my head. Why have Zen when I can have infinite bliss and happiness?

And here's the answer: because there is no such thing as feeling good all the time. Because that simplistic and reductionist view of what is possible in life is nothing more than a pipe dream and an utter fantasy. And although I can completely understand the innocent belief in its possibility, I can completely see that it's just not true or possible.

Now, spirituality is not about seeking to feel good all the time. Now, spirituality for me is about acceptance of the reality of life. Now, spirituality is about paying attention to everything and believing nothing. Now, spirituality is about allowing life to be what it is and has always been. Now, spirituality is about embracing and being intimate with. Now, spirituality is about letting life speak to me and dictate to me rather than the other way around. Now, spirituality is about surrender and not about control. Now, spirituality is about taking responsibility and not about dreaming and hoping that magic will save me. Now, spirituality is about saying saying thank you for all blessings rather than asking for more. Now, spirituality is about receiving my life openly rather than resisting and fighting the love that I am.