An Excess of Everything and a Lack of No-thing, by John Aske

CloudsAs the outer world supplies us with all the things we want, so we stop paying attention to our inner world and what part it plays in our lives. What else could there be anyway, and enquiring might make demands on us, and complicate our already complicated lives even further. So we turn away. Why give ourselves more problems? The idea that our failure to investigate might be the cause of many of our problems does not occur to us, and we don’t really want to know.

The quiet awareness is full of amusement – and still full of other wonders.

This is greatly to the advantage of the commercial world, which sees the chance of supplying us with innumerable goods to sweeten our lives and make them more comfortable and enviable – and at least superficially more secure. We buy lots of things we don’t need, because lots of other people we know have them and we don’t want to miss out and look inadequate.

But why would we feel inadequate anyway, especially as we have so much to possess and distract ourselves?

As each new thing comes along, we feel excitement and pleasure, but the pleasure only lasts a little while before the sense of dissatisfaction returns; rich or poor, it doesn’t make any difference. Our egos – the little me, who is sad and happy and only satisfied for a little while – is always hungry for something to distract itself, because it too is an actor on a stage; and when the curtain closes on each new event, the feeling of dissatisfaction or emptiness, returns. So we either go on to the next thing, or we turn and look at this quiet space – an awareness which does not seem to have any things or distraction in it, but which we slowly come to realise is the real source of all the little things that make us truly happy and give us a sense of belonging, in a way the expensive things and the distraction never did. But we cannot possess this awareness; we cannot make demands on it; and we cannot store it for our future pleasure.

One autumn evening, passing down the lime avenue on Hampstead Heath, off to the side, I saw one of the great trees surrounded by a glorious fire of leaves in the late sunlight. I walked on some way and then came back for another look. Nothing had actually changed, but the stunning glory had gone. I learned then that a precious moment is a precious moment, not a possession. And as my dear grandmother often said: ‘Never the same for long, and never the same thing twice.’ I still find myself looking into the glade as I pass, but the glory does not return.

The quiet awareness is full of amusement – and still full of other wonders.

You can read more articles by John Aske here.

Categories: Buddhism, John Aske

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