From time to time someone writes to me with a question that silences me. They put their heart on the page, and I know there is nothing I can say or do for them. Although I’m not ever able to provide the answers someone is looking for, these missives always help me to articulate something that speaks to people where they are instead of where I am. I sent this reply to someone today, and looking it over I realized it could help me and others take a hard look at where we are.
Where are you?
Readers are almost never where I am, sitting side-by-side with me in a Zen retreat, using the medicine for human ills prescribed by Buddha 2500 years ago. But the distance between us still compels me to try.
I am not a bestselling author, and I don’t have the first idea how people become a success. I don’t know how to fix a relationship, manufacture happiness, or realize one’s passion. I don’t know the alchemy that turns fiction into fact or pain into pleasure. If I did know how to do that, I would be doing things the easy way. But I’m not. I am doing things the hard way. We are all doing things the hard way, as best as we can.
In short, I am not in the manifesting-your-dream business. I am in the waking-up-from-your dream business. The former is more popular and lucrative than the latter. I’m sure it is more temporarily uplifting, inspiring and entertaining. What it entertains is fantasy. I don’t put my faith in fantasy. I put my faith in the path you least desire, the path you most avoid, and the option of having no other option.
All my faith is in the practice of simply noticing where you are, seeing things as they appear, and neither clinging to nor rejecting them. I don’t know where you are going to end up and neither do you. Life’s purpose is to keep going, step by step, using the smallest increments and the easiest implements – using what’s at hand. This is the faith that sustains me because it is real, not what is yearned for, imagined, or guessed at.
I can only ask this: what you are overlooking? What are you resisting? What are you rejecting? What part of your own life have you abandoned? Your answers appear right there. And I am not talking about a psychological search. I am suggesting that you take a look at what is right in front of you.
We usually feel lost because we have exiled ourselves from our own life, looking for big signs rather than small ones. Following the small signs is what keeps us in motion. Motion is what takes us places.
I can’t give you any answers. They are always going to be found right in front of you, when you get close enough to read them. And even though this doesn’t look like an answer, it is.