Truthfully, I understand very little about this world but I have discovered quite a lot about the universe inside of myself. For the sake of relating my perspective to others, I will paint a scene…
The universe we perceive is a river that flows in the forest of all things known and unknown. The river is a torrent of illusions and pleasures. The river is as alive as you and I, trickling past rocks and other blockage at some moments. In other moments, it rushes fast and unrelentlessly. It also gifts us moments of stillness, where water is allowed to pool in basins deep with contemplation.
I was thrown into the river when I was born in this world. From the moment I had cognitive thoughts, I was being torn in half. My feet were stuck deep in the bank as I tried to make sense of the past. I would dwell upon the things I experienced, trying to find some reason why the river had put me through this or that. I felt the tension stretching my body so thin between my feet holding stubbornly onto the moment before and my hands grappling for the moment to come. I tried to see past the rushing water to anticipate where I was being pulled and how fast the current would flow when I got there. I was overwhelmed by the velocity pushing me through life. I had a vice grip on the insane notion that if I looked hard enough, I could find answers in my past that would make the future clear. I essentially wanted to bend the river to my will.
Sometimes, I could close my eyes to it all. I could escape the suffering of being. Earthly delights, pleasures of the flesh, could numb the incessant tearing that was happening to the fabric of my existence. I could avoid the river altogether through delights and pleasures. These delights would lull me into oblivion. They allowed me to exist without trying to make sense of anything. I could curl up into a ball and roll through the motions of the river, bouncing off this or that. Destroying this or that without a second thought to how my actions fit into the flow. The pleasures transported me into a dream state, where nothing I did mattered. If my movements didn’t matter to myself then I must not exist at all. These moments of paralysis, while sweet like sleep, were always short lived. I would be throttled back into my own perspective, opening my eyes for what seemed like a lifetime. This lifetime I now had the extreme discomfort of looking back on was full of things that truly haunted me. My deeds had been done and I assumed that they created who I was in the moments to come. I found myself spinning in these times. I was stuck where I was once and also was projecting myself into the future..
When I reached basins deep and peaceful, I would resurface, gasping for air. As I took ragged breaths, I would still be looking down the river, hoping to see that my path was smooth. It would never be smooth. I knew I would drown in the rush ahead if I didn’t learn how to find peace on my own. In one of these moments, I looked up at the sky spread open above me. I felt sunshine warm the skin on my face. I focussed on that sensation alone. There was peace in it. There was power inside of my skin. Instead of feeling pain, which comes from the suffering in the past, or fear, which comes from anxiety about the future, I felt alive. I took breaths that filled up my stomach first, then my chest. I focussed on how the air felt coming in and how it felt going out. It dawned on me that I did not need to wait for the universe to gift me peace but instead that it was inside of me.
I found a way to flow. Breathing in, breathing out. I breathe in the moment and then I let it go. I can float on the surface, moving with the river instead of standing against it. I dip my toes in the bed every so often but instead of dwelling I can learn from the past that collects there. I keep my head up, soaking in each moment instead of fearing the rocky water ahead of me. The universe has divine timing. What is meant to happen will, and I will be prepared for it. There is comfort in knowing that nothing makes sense. I am free from trying to figure it all out.
I am no longer stuck in suffering but rejoicing in my freedom to suffer. I can find inspiration in things that seemed so mundane at the time. I can turn an essay that I had been dreading to write into an introspective piece about my own existence. My own revelations on this journey can help me relate to others who I bump into on the river. We can help each other, pulling one another to the surface to catch their breath.
I have experienced a large growth in my perspective in these last 8 weeks of class. Through the readings I have gained knowledge about real world problems that exist outside of myself. Through mindful practices, I have learned about myself. These two things are intricately tied to each other. In fact, they are tangled together. The way I view the world directly affects how I treat others and how I treat the earth. I have learned from the other students in this class by listening to their opinions and trying to understand instead of waiting until it is my turn to reply. I read some of their blog posts and felt very inspired by the way we can have differing opinions on the same subjects. My biggest takeaway from this class is that I no longer feel the hopelessness of existing in a capitalist state that I have no chance of changing. I have hope in myself, my immediate community, and humanity in general.