On this beautiful Fall afternoon in New England, I wish to share with you some reflections on the Sixth Factor of Awakening: Tranquility (Passaddhi).
In general, I would hazard to guess that most students of yoga or meditation arrive at the threshold of the spiritual life with a strong desire for an increased dosage of calm or peacefulness in their lives. I certainly did.
And, if you’re like me, you may have spent many years assiduously applying yourself to one or more of various spiritual disciplines, earnestly hoping to scale Mont Peace.
Occasionally, say on Day 5 of a 10-day silent meditation retreat, a few minutes, nah seconds, of brilliant clarity might arise. Every ounce of existence feels bathed in peace. Alas, finally, all is well.
But as capriciously as this deep calm appears, soon it evaporates, leaving nothing but a frantic flailing, futile attempts to recapture the Edenic bliss from which one has been prematurely ejected.
A well-worn tale from the Sufi tradition is illustrative:
“Nasrudin is sitting outside an Arabian spice shop. He’s sitting beside a huge basket of red hot ‘dynamite chillies’. Nasrudin’s eyes are filled with tears as he takes chillies from the basket and bites into one after another. His friend comes along and sees Nasrudin sweating and crying. “Nasrudin what are you doing. You’re crying and sweating. Why are you chewing on those chillies?” Nasrudin answers, “I’m trying to find a sweet one.”
As my time with you is brief, I’ll spell out the moral: so long as we’re seeking deliverance in a particular state of mind or experience in life or sweetness from a a chili, we’ve consigned ourselves to the mullah’s fate, sweating and crying, thrashing and wailing.
Rather than using one’s energy to generate states of contingent calm, I’ve found practice to be far more gratifying to simply relinquish the attachment to desire for any states, period.
Adyashanti refers to this as the practice of ‘letting everything be just as it is’.
Try this: In your next meditation, do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Relinquish all agendas for spiritual outcomes. Let it all be, and be receptive to a dimension of experience that only reveals itself when the agitation of seeking is abandoned.
Originally published on November 2, 2011