“Throw everything away, forget about it all! You are learning too much, remembering too much, trying too hard… Relax a little bit, give life a chance to flow its own way, unassisted by your mind and effort. Stop directing the river’s flow.”
“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows, by itself.”
― Matsuo Bashō
In Buddhism, we have this Pali term called Dukkha, which is commonly translated into English as “suffering,” though that doesn’t quite encapsulate the entirety of the term Dukkha. It really is a sense of disjointedness or that something is “just not right,” and includes a general unhappiness about life.
Boy, that sure rings true, doesn’t it? Most of us have some dukkha in some areas of our lives.
Now Buddhists also recognize the cause of that dukkha, and that is the Pali word Taṇhā which can be translated literally as thirst, but is often translated as craving. This is not a literal thirst or craving (though for some people, it could be). This is a craving for something “more.” It’s usually evidenced best by people who acquire mass amounts of stuff. The large house, the fancy car, the newest big screen TV. All of that jazz.
The implication I get from the term thirst is along the lines of someone wondering lost in the Sahara desert. That level of thirst. The unbearable, one-track-mind thirst.
Everyone longs to end their dukkha. We want release from suffering. We want to be “happy.” But most of us go about it in the wrong way.
If you’ve ever swam in a river, hopefully someone who was experienced taught you right out of the gate to never swim against the current. It’s foolish, you’ll never beat it. You’ll exhaust yourself and the river will still have moved you where it will.
Most of us are trying to relieve ourselves of dukkha by kicking against the current. Or worse yet, we’re trying to direct the river’s flow, as the quote by Mooji above points out. To the left, you see a “flow chart” of sorts. While it may seem humorous, if you ponder it long enough, you’ll soon realize that it’s completely true. Ultimately, whether or not you can do something about a particular problem, what good does worrying about it do?
Does not the grass grow by itself? Do not the trees bloom? Does not the noble Oak tree just grow? It doesn’t need us to tell it to grow, it just does.
You can live your life in similar fashion – by just plain living it! Trust me, your life will continue to flow in whatever direction it will without your intervention. You’re likely creating more dukkha for yourself. Instead, realize that you are the flow. A quote by Carl Sandburg comes to mind, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” Take comfort in the fact that you don’t know where you’re going.
Shunryu Suzuki is quoted in the book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind as saying:
We will think, “Now it is raining, but we don’t know what will happen in the next moment. By the time we go out it may be a beautiful day, or a stormy day. Since we don’t know, let’s appreciate the sound of the rain now.”
How wonderful it is to appreciate the moment you have now, no matter the circumstances. Because truth be told, you don’t know what the next moment holds, or even if there will be a next moment.
You’ve heard the phrase “go with the flow.” It’s not easy to do, that’s for sure. But meditation helps you better understand your tanha, and with some practice you’re able to recognize the desires that arise within you as just thoughts, which do not need to be acted on. This goes a long way toward relieving your dukkha.
So that’s it, basically. Stop directing the river’s flow, and go wherever you’re going.