“Everyone you meet, no matter what adversity they have been through, has managed to create a pearl from the sand and muck surrounding them. It is your job to find each person’s pearl. For some people, this will be easy, because the pearl is on the surface and easy to find. For others, finding the pearl will be difficult, because it is buried deep. Always look for the pearl, which is each person’s light of life.”
— Noah Purifoy
I know a young mother who has a little boy of four years old, and every time the boy is agitated, not calm, not happy, she will take his hand and ask him to sit down and practice breathing in and out with her. She told her child to think of the abdomen, the belly, and breathing in seeing the belly expanding, rising, and breathing out seeing the belly falling. They practice breathing together like that three or four or five times, and they always feel better. If the mother left her baby alone to breathe, it would be a little bit difficult for him because he is so young, he cannot do it alone. That is why the mother sits next to him, and holds his hand, and promises to practice breathing in and out together.
- Thich Nhat Hanh, in ”All in One, One in All
We have a hard time seeing clearly in life because our minds are so full of “already knowing.” We don’t know how to clear a calm empty space inside ourselves where we can let reality be what it is. We are a mass of noisy thoughts, unexamined beliefs and the feelings they engender. We are very sure of who we are even though most of that identity is conditioned reflexes.
Inner spaciousness is rare in our world. Noise follows us day and night, both inner and outer. With all that cacophony it’s no wonder we’re confused, but we’re too busy to stop and notice why. Not many children have parents who can help them calm the waters and sort through the inner storm of reactions.
Humans are overweighted with mental and emotional detritus they don’t know they have because they can’t get quiet enough to observe their own inner processes. Our excessively extroverted culture is a juggernaut that sweeps us up and carries us along with a rushing stream of pollution and cultural trash that overwhelms our inner landscape. We can’t think clearly. Our emotions are conditioned and manipulated by every wind that blows inside and around us.
Real spirituality has nothing to do with adopting the right beliefs. It’s simply the practice of getting quiet enough to see what is real and what is not. By the time we have lived a decade on this planet, we are already heavily conditioned by the world we were born into. Dismantling those inner structures is not easy. Most of us resist because our identity is built on those pilings.
The spiritual life is less about being good than it is about being real. We actually fear facing what is real in ourselves. We’d rather hold tightly to a fantasy, a conditioned idea of ourselves that is less threatening than the truth. If you sit quietly and watch your mind you will notice how tempted you are to buy into distractions. You want to follow shiny beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Seeing them as figments, constructs that are neither true nor false, is an unfamiliar state of mind.
On the other side of our conditioned and predetermined path is direct contact with a miraculous reality we normally can’t see. The mind needs to be prepared to see it by becoming quiet. A busy mind is too wrapped up in culturally induced artifacts to see clearly.
I think we each have a responsibility to the world to get quiet enough so we can see the world we create and live in. If we can see it, maybe we can love it enough to take care of it.