In one of his short audio-books, the late New Age author Stuart Wilde advised his listeners to get dressed up in their best suit of clothing and don their best pair of shoes and go for a walk in the pouring rain, without a raincoat or umbrella. One of his points was that we don’t appreciate the situations in which we find ourselves. Usually, we curse inclimate weather as we dash from one dry area to another dry area so we don’t inconvenience ourselves. In the process, we cheat ourselves out of fully experiencing the moment.
My enjoyment of Wilde’s audio-books remained long after I outgrew New Age philosophy. Wilde was one of those shamans of “crazy wisdom” who advocated appreciation of who we are and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Wilde did spout a fair amount of woo woo, but I often wondered if he didn’t do so with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I like that he made me think. In doing so, he planted the seeds of skepticism. For that, I will be eternally appreciative.
When I finally realized that only I can live my life did I finally leave my irresponsible adolescence behind. I used to be one of those people who blamed circumstances and other people for the results of my own beliefs and misadventures.
Many aspects of life, though often difficult or unpleasant, have gone unappreciated for what they are. I had to swallow my pride and look at hard times in a different light. I was left with the universal Zen Koans: Who am I? What is this?
The saying, “Life right here, right now is Nirvana”, was no longer just an abstract idea, I began to experience it as reality. This state of mind goes beyond the Pollyanna, feel-good advice one finds in countless lists on the Internet. “Life right here, right now is Nirvana” doesn’t advocate mental gymnastics that twist life’s difficulties into sugar, spice, and everything nice. If life is sickeningly sweet, we’re not facing life fully dead on. Sometimes life really does suck bad. All the Internet memes in the world cannot disguise this fact. We don’t need to love harsh situations in order to appreciate their value.
The notion about Nirvana being a heavenly place where there are no delusions, no problems but only perfect pleasure and delight is untrue.
A once popular, new agey concept called “The Gap” envisioned a mental space between the fantasy of heaven on Earth and the reality of our actual, mundane lives. Believers in this concept practiced various physical exercises and meditations that were designed to close the gap between the real and the ideal. The thing is, there is no such thing as “The Gap”, but practitioners were constantly trying to close it.
When we stop thinking and conceptualizing, we realize that there is no difference between Nirvana and mundane life. The concept of Nirvana has its root within our everyday mindset. It arises from the mental tool of dualism. Certainly, dualism is a convenient filter with which to navigate through life, but it is just that, a filter. Dualism is a very subjective filter.
When we just live and appreciate life as it comes and goes each moment, we’re not using the filter of dualism. When we notice that something is unpleasant or when we compare our situation, good or bad, with that of another person, our dualism filter automatically turns on.
People often decide to travel a spiritual path in order to attain some sort of great wisdom and a mindstate akin to Heaven or Nirvana in order to eliminate the Hells in their lives. We often practice in order to attain the realization of Nirvana.
The fact is, that when we practice to attain realization, we eventually find out that we didn’t need to strive to attain realization at all. We discover that we needn’t even expect anything at all. The expectation of heavenly realization is unnecessary because we discover that it is already here. It has always been here… and now.
There is no special creed, belief system, social class, gender, orientation, age, or other station in life that is necessary to fulfill the requirements of this subtle Nirvana or Heaven. We all have abundant opportunities to experience the realization of the interconnectedness of life, in all of its aspects. The only person one needs to save oneself is oneself.
We are constantly living this unsurpassable life. When we pay attention to this fact, we do not need to force ourselves to appreciate it. We understand that everything and everyone we encounter is worthy of our appreciation.
By the way, I never did dress up in my best suit and nicest shoes to take a leisurely stroll in a downpour. I don’t know for sure whether or not Stuart Wilde actually did so, either. However, the scenario does help us envision the delightful mental attitude of appreciation.
The Holiday Season is a good time to remember that we can effortlessly appreciate the Nirvana that is real life. It does not matter what spiritual path we are travelling, or if we are not on a religious path at all. This time of year is when we slow down, breathe in deeply, and experience what really makes us who we are.
I hope you can take the time to remember and appreciate who you are.
Have truly happy holidays.