It’s Not Always So

It’s Not Always So — Things are as they are, not as we imagine them to be. Learning this lesson means accepting ‘The way it is, is the way it is.’

Wayne C. Allen

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Today’s subject is taken from the title of a book by the Zen master Suzuki Roshi — he said that the simplest definition of Buddhism (and, I would argue, life) is “It’s not always so.”

All descriptions of reality are limited expressions of the world of emptiness. Yet we attach to the descriptions and think they are reality. That is a mistake.
Not Always So: Practicing the True Spirit of Zen, pg 33

Most people believe that if you study hard and work hard, you’ll be successful.

not always soI couldn’t possibly look like that

Well, studying hard and working hard might make you smart and rich. Neither will (necessarily) make you wise, nor successful. Unless you’re looking for the kind of success that is measured in letters after you name, titles on your office door and mega-bucks in your bank account.

None of which is a “bad” thing. It’s just a sadness when it’s the only thing.

Most of us hold a deep belief that things should be explainable and logical, and that consequences should always and reliably follow events.

Because we live in a physical world that seems to follow rules, we make the leap that our personal life should actually imitate science, not art. We figure that if we endlessly scrutinize and dissect our past, our relationships, and our processes, we will eventually figure out “the way it is” — once and for all time.

We desperately hope to discover that the world is “just so.”

This desire for just so-ness is a desire not for truth but for uniformity — an, “Everyone knows that this is the way it is.” There is this deep yearning to find the right teacher, guru, therapist, religious leader — the one who can clear it all up, for all time.

Underlying this is the expectation that when I fully understand, life will be easy, and the path will be clear.

This would explain how, so very often, we get into battles with those we love, and often those battles are nothing more than attempts to have our world-view validated, and then followed, by the other person.

We’ve put so much effort into being right — to figuring it all out — so we refuse to let go of all of our work.

We fear that “nothingness” — that negation will be the result of dropping our self-understandings and self-definitions.

Even though they are illusions. Because… It’s Not Always So

The way out of this particular drama is to surrender our desire for permanence — surrender our belief that something, anything, is right for all time.

What, then, would my life be like if I strove to be at peace, living within my own skin, feeling contentment while being present? My guess is that, in order to achieve this way of being, I would have to accept Suzuki’s point — it’s not always so. Or, to quote Stewart Wilde, “The way it is, is the way it is.” Right now.

Here’s a quote for you:

Consciousness cannot be confined to egocentric self-concepts. Existential reality is practical in terms of coping with the ordinary tasks of living in the world, just as Newtonian physics is practical for building bridges. However, exclusive identification with the existential self as an independent entity makes no sense in view of states of consciousness that transcend ordinary space/time limitations and operate in a reality that is more aptly described in the language of sub-atomic particles.
Frances Vaughan, The Inward Arc

As you grasp this wisdom, you realize that the most disturbing aspect of being human is the stark realization of the relative unpredictability of life.

Coupled with that is the realization that we are, beneath the veneer of socialization that allows us to interact, totally different beings. We see things differently, interpret things differently, react or resist differently. We literally live in our own universe, made up of constructs and definitions that are, in the main, unique to ourselves.

There is almost a desperation out there, as people run from pillar to post trying to discover the meaning of life, or even glimpse the meaning of their life. Rather than simply accepting the reality of themselves in this moment, they seek solidity and assurances that they are “OK.”

There is something extremely valuable in simply showing up for whatever is going on.

Yet, fear often keeps us from truly showing up. Fear, however, is based upon a thought projected forward; it exists only out of the moment, in the realm of “what could happen.”

Well, what could happen is not what is happening.

What is happening may run the range from pleasurable to painful, and of course, because it is what is happening, you have to actually deal with it. Fear based fantasies simply cause us to pretend we can hide from the moment.

One of the things I notice as I practice being mindfully present — and as I am able to let go of the need to define my process (if we are busy defining the process, we are not experiencing the process — we are in our heads, playing with words again… and again) I find that stuff just slides through without “sticking.”

Now, I suppose that people who don’t like living in the moment — in uncertainty, in the state of non-definition — would judge that their continual self-chatter and self-definitions enrich the moment. I would disagree.

It seems to me that to define is to go non-present, and in non-presence I cease to have the actual experience, as I am to busy having my interpreted experience. And often, I have per-determined what that experience is going to be, based upon faulty memories of past experiences that I judge, in my desperate need to have by life be “just so.”

I judge that my interpretations are true, as opposed to convenient figments of my present imagination.

  • Thus, if I am pre-disposed to fighting with my partner, I am pre-disposed to having the fight regardless of what is actually happening in the moment.
  • If I am pre-disposed to having sexual encounters, everyone and every situation is sexually charged.
  • If I am pre-disposed to being sick, or being shortchanged by store clerks — to being hard-done-by — I will have these experiences in spades – almost drawing them to myself — and will ignore any evidence to the contrary.

I will believe what I believe, no matter what is actually going on in the present moment.

How to let this go? I would strongly suggest that “simple presence” is more than enough.

In the end, the only thing that matters is how content I am with the choices I am making.

Nothing is “so” and certainly nothing is “so” forever. Not inside of us, at our depths.

Physical reality seems to be “so,” — i.e. I’m going to die. But since I can’t know “when,” it’s still a crap shoot.

Maybe the goal of incarnation is to learn to ride the wave of life gently, with flexibility. Gently.

Or not.

It is how you see it — right now.

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

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