‘Walking on a Mountain Path in Spring’ – Ma Yuan, 1190 – WikiArt
We are such complex beings, always confused by endless choices and directions, caught as we are in the repeated convolutions of our thought patterns. Because we see ourselves as an intricate network of thoughts and feelings, we are naturally engaged in finding the solutions for our life conundrum in that same dark cavern of thought. But mistakingly and unfortunately so. For this is a labyrinth from which we can never come out. It has been designed for our loss and suffering. It has been masterly laid down by ignorance, for the sole and only purpose of perpetuating itself. If you want my advice: stay away if you can. But if you are already trapped and caught, well don’t worry: there is a way out. And it might be an easier one than you think.
The problem with thought is that it is constantly crowning itself as the chief master in all deeds and endeavours. It is doing so well in so many fields that its influence overflows beyond its natural area of competence. It is forever engaged in a process of belief and identification. It has persuaded itself that it represents the body, and is by now certain to be a person — a ‘he’ or ‘she’ who commands. It has put the load of finding happiness on itself, and is driving the body out in the world in a constant search for new objects and circumstances, all with the aim to obtain the precious package. And since it has come all the way here, it might as well seek to bring to itself not only happiness but also peace, freedom, love, justice, beauty, and the likes.
This is how we get lost — along that avenue of thought. Along that deceptive, inefficient, never ending seeking. This is madness — this labyrinth we have created for ourself. Thought and its acolytes as feelings, images, body, hope, desire — all that joyous team — out on a mission to find happiness. The danger of such an endeavour is to be found in the thin line down the page on the contract, that stipulates the side effects of such a folly: namely that this mistaken avenue will produce suffering in the forms of all the fears, violence, hatred, confusion, and sorrow that this endeavour brings with itself. And we won’t be able to heal these unfortunate ailments with more of the same as we failingly try to. Suffering can never be overcome using the tools that brought it in the first place. We have to find another way out of this labyrinthine maze and mess.
The good news is that you don’t have to follow every shallow, intricate alleys of this labyrinth, which is understood by now to be only a dark prospect. You are not doomed. Happiness was never meant to be such a dreary, sweaty enterprise. Right there, in the middle of the maze, in your darkest moment of loss and despair, is the secret chamber of peace, and the gate to the freedom you have sought for so long. Right there is the hidden, direct path out of it all. The short cut through the maze. Right here and right now. When you have slowed down and looked for once from the position of the one that has been here, present in all eternity, just below the threshold of your labyrinthine thoughts and feelings, and in fact mingling with them. This is the abode of rest which magically appears when thoughts, feelings, images, body, hope, desire, and world, have been put in their right place. This direct path is not a path. It is ‘it’. It is that very place or thing — which is not a place, not a thing — of your wildest dreams. It is this one silent watcher that precedes what you take to be your self, and presides over your golden destiny as being. The One that is so easily overlooked and missed — so discreet and transparent is it. Thinner than a breath. Space-like. Peaceful. Blissful. Blessed. As simple and direct as your deepest, most intimate sense of being. Just ‘I’. Yes, plainly just ‘I’.
Text by Alain Joly
Painting by Ma Yuan (1160-1225)
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