|“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” |
~ Carl Sagan
Life is bigger than you, much bigger, and yes it matters.
If you read any Buddhism at all, you will come across the idea of inter-being, the idea that we are all connected and that there is no separation. At first (and for quite some time) this can be very hard to wrap your head around. For many years I misunderstood it to mean that you and I are one, when so obviously we are two different people. I've now come to understand inter-being as the idea that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves - much as our hearts and lungs do not exist independently, neither do we. All of our organs are a part of our bodies, there really is no separation. At what point does your heart end? There is no exact point at which your lungs end - they are all connected - your body is a system. You (and I) are a part of the entirety of all that is. We may feel that we are separate, but that is illusion.
Living as a self-centered individual leads to fear and doubt. We build walls, our world closes in, and our heart tightens up like a clenched fist.
In order to open our world we must realize that everything that we do and experience contributes to the process and evolution of the Universe. Our contributions will continue to reverberate forever. We cannot separate ourselves from everything else out there. We are part of "it" and "it" has no end.
Realizing this, selfish or hateful acts no longer make sense. Being selfish or harmful to other beings when we are a part of the whole is like the heart refusing to pump blood to the lungs or the lungs refusing to supply oxygen to the remainder of the body. We are all interconnected and part of one great system.
Why is this important? Because as we come to realize this deep down, then we understand that we need not fear death, we need not be greedy, we need not be selfish. As we begin to truly see the connectedness of all that is then we see life in a new way and everything changes. Our fear slowly dissipates and our heart begins to unclench. Our thinking becomes more clear and the path (life) seems less confusing
It's not easy to consciously live as a part of the whole, moment by moment, realizing that we need not be greedy or fear the death of this thing we call "I". Our egos will fight it. As an ancient Zen master once said, "It is like swallowing a red-hot iron ball. You try to vomit it out, but you cannot." It requires concentration and commitment. As first we may intellectually realize the truth of inter-being, but that is only the beginning. Quiet meditation and looking deeply will eventually help us to realize this truth on an entirely new level. Maybe just a little at first, but that's a start. It's the start of a whole new way of living.
Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living