We all seek control. Even my cat. Lately, she has been waking me up earlier than I want in the hopes that I will put our two German shepherds outside so she can have the whole house to herself. In response, I have been putting her in the garage, which she finds completely insulting. Each of us is seeking control but only the dogs have peace.
While we try to train and control our pets, children and other people, they are busily doing the same. Who is really in control? And for how long?
While we focus on the outer, we forget the inner. The more we seek external control, the more we risk our own internal peace. When we arm-wrestle reality, it sometimes wins. We attack each moment and all it contains with our sharpened arsenal of shoulds, resisting our experience with red-faced intensity, resenting the fact that there are forces in the universe with their own should-missiles aimed at our carefully created plans. Who wins these battles and for how long? And how can we have peace when we are constantly at war?
I am like most people. I want to win. I hate to lose. I have my plans and too often I see others as threats to getting what I think I need or want. Many of us are fear-based. We are afraid of not getting enough. We focus on what we lack and approach the day with anxiety. But there is another way.
I know someone who has been content since she was born. When she competes in sports, she wants to win as bad as anyone. And she never gives up. Even when her team is far behind, she still believes they can rally and score. She gets upset when others quit trying but she is never stressed about the outcome. Whether her team wins or loses, she is the same. And she quickly forgets the score. She is remarkably content because she controls what she can and lets go of the rest. She resides in the now and leans into it with the fullness of herself. And she is graceful in defeat and keeps on smiling.
Most of us struggle with trust issues. We approach the world like it’s a game of musical chairs and we are about to lose. We believe there is a scarcity of supply and if we don’t fight for our ration, we will miss out. There is another way.
If our primary goal is peace, we must start with our own expectations. When I have what I want and I want what I have, I have true peace. But what happens when they are not the same? I cannot always control what I have but I am always in charge of my wants.
I remember a moment in the 1970s when I lived in Dayton, Ohio. I was sitting in my VW on Brown Street with my good friend Bruce near the Moonlight Bar, a narrow dive that suited our unpretentious sensibilities. We were sharing a joint, something I did a lot in those days, and getting philosophical. I was explaining the concept of moksha to Bruce, which I said meant detachment from the world, where we want nothing and have everything and then I used the word, “desirelessness.”
I still remember Bruce, an extremely passionate and intense young man who loved to party and pursue the pleasures of the physical plane completely missing my point as he pronounced proudly that he had “all the desire in the world.”
I just smiled, nodded and thought, “And that is your problem, my friend, and you cannot see it.”
In those days, one of my favorite books was “A Flower Does Not Talk” a small, thin volume of Zen essays by Abbot Zenkei Sbibayama. The book contains a commentary on Zazen Wasan, The Song of Zazen by Hakuin, a 12-stanza poem that finishes like this:
At this moment what is there that you lack!
Nirvana presents itself before you,
Where you stand is the Land of Purity.
Your person, the body of Buddha.
When we approach the day believing in an abundance of supply, we realize we have all we need and good things are coming. Of course, we have fear but it is not in charge. We place our peace in its rightful place of primacy. It is our guide and goal. We focus more on the preciousness we possess, not the perception of lost control.
Sit still now and be quiet. Notice how your mind resists being managed? Let it go. Let it think what it wants and repeat, “And that’s okay.” The judgments, expectations, desires, fears and shoulds never stop. Like a bus or train, let it leave the brain-station without you. Stay here. Don’t go yet. Rest in this moment. Just be here. Breathe. Accept non-acceptance. Refuse to judge your judgments. Accept your controlling, fearful and judgmental nature with compassion. You are exactly who you “should” be. Let there be no limits to your willingness to be blessed.
I am so grateful. Please join me.
Doug Craig graduated from college in Ohio with a journalism degree and got married during the Carter administration. He graduated from graduate school with a doctorate in Psychology, got divorced, moved to Redding, re-married and started his private practice during the Reagan administration. He had his kids during the first Bush administration. Since then he has done nothing noteworthy besides write a little poetry, survive a motorcycle crash, buy and sell an electric car, raise his kids, manage to stay married and maintain his practice for almost 25 years. He believes in magic and is a Sacramento Kings fan.