Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.
Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.
If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.
-Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu, chapter 16, translated by Stephen Mitchell
The state of serenity is perhaps the best evidence that one has reached a certain maturity to be and live in harmony with life as it unfolds from moment to moment. Voluntary staying awake, voluntary staying in the here and now instead of in the clouds of our psychological thinking, and the noise of the past and future, can only evoke the state of calmness, acceptance and thus gratitude and love.
I say “the state” because we are so used to seeing ourselves as separate from the states that seem to visit us. But the more one lives in the present moment, the less one follows the demanding, condemning, speculation thoughts, the sooner one will notice that there is actually no separation between oneself and the states of calmness or love.
Whenever the present moment that can be sensed with all your senses right now, becomes more attractive than any thought, the identification with the thoughts ceases. And with the cessation of the identification with the thoughts, the separation ceases. At such moments, it no longer matters whether it is “you” who experiences the state of serenity or love, or whether serenity and love are simply there, are simply what you are. All of these are just words we can agree or disagree on. To make it easier: Where there is no interest in the psychological speculation about the past and the future, where there is no investment in thinking, fantasizing, imagining, fearing, expecting, there is serenity and simplicity.
And I claim that it is possible to live in this way. But it all depends on what we pay our attention to, what we give our investment to. In this respect, it seems that we are absolutely free to choose what attracts us the most. And yet I write mainly to those who have already begin to appreciate the serene, relaxed, resistance-free life, and thereby discover how the involvement with the psychological mind makes such a life impossible in the long run.
The nice thing is that we always can check and see when and why we feel no composure, no calmness, no lightness, no acceptance or love. It will always have the same cause – namely our investment in the world of psychological thoughts, desires, fears, scenarios, fantasies, speculations. Always. It is so true and so simple!
And so, whenever there is no serenity, it is because I imagine things, live in a story, either think about past events, future scenarios or fantasize. Even when my body is in pain, I can feel and radiate love, calmness and acceptance as long as I don’t get caught up in a story about the pain.
Does that mean that thinking, imagining things, speculating is bad? Not at all. It is not about bad or good. But when we think, speculate, construct mental images and stories, make assumptions about our life, is that at the expense of the current reality of the moment? Do we still have awareness of the body, the breath, the emotions, the sounds, the smells, the environment? Or have we been almost completely absorbed in the thoughts and possibly believe in them? Are we aware that these thoughts are only thoughts, which means possible interpretations, stories and images that could be followed by counter-interpretations, counter-stories? And furthermore: are we aware that these thoughts are a tiny part of the reality of the present moment, or is that our only reality?
Our serenity depends on it, and therefore it is of great value to know and to check again and again how the facts are.
It is necessary to see and recognize that and how we distance ourselves from the present by speculating, how we lose ourselves in thoughts, scenarios, how we begin to believe in them, align our lives accordingly, and thus repeatedly remove ourselves from the current reality which is the only source of lasting serenity.
To put it another way: We often blame others, or situations that supposedly rob us of peace of mind and serenity. But in most cases it is simply our investment in ideas, thoughts, theories and interpretations of those people and situations that make it impossible for us to stay serene. Ideas, theories and interpretations that are possibly not even true, or only partially true. And even if some are true, what does our investment in it bring us, if not the loss of presence and thereby the loss of our peace of mind and contentment?
Without this investment, what is here? If we stop clinging to the thoughts and stories in our heads, isn’t there automatically more space and air to breathe? Doesn’t your view become clearer, your senses more sensitive? Doesn’t the whole nervous system calm down automatically? Can’t you see the uselessness of mind-spinning in the face of the surrounding reality of the here and now? Not even for a moment? And if you see the uselessness in the face of the totality of reality, doesn’t that suddenly mean serenity? A realization that most thoughts are nothing more than a lot of fuss about… nothing? Doesn’t the recognition bring you back to earth? Back to reality of life? Back to yourself? Back to serenity and love that you actually are, whenever you wish… I can tell you that many times, but you have to find out all by yourself.
Out of the head, into the reality of the moment, into the reality of the senses, works miracles. We do not want to see this simple truth because of our investment in the mind content. And that is our decision. At least know this. Where you put your investment, where you put your loving attention, that will grow and blossom. Life is simple, easy-going, loving and accepting. The mind makes it complicated, difficult, tiring and full of painful resistance.
Letting go seems difficult. And yet it is the only way to serenity.