Make It Beautiful

One Way SignSo, I got a little morose today during yoga.

It happens a lot to people: blockages. They start in your mind and move to your body.  The reverse is also true.

Usually, I feel really good after I do yoga but occasionally I feel like crying.  This great emptiness opens inside me and there is no reason for it.  I felt the same the first time I saw Amma.  I cried and cried, although it felt like such a huge relief.  This time at yoga I didn’t cry — thank god.  But on the way home I had to start thinking about why this feeling.  Sometimes I feel that all my life I spent most of my energies trying to hide from this sad, melancholy feeling.  I distract it with things, sometimes even manage to fool myself that it’s not there, but it’s almost always there.

The only time that it really isn’t there is when I have a particularly good meditation.

I was driving home at this point, and I realized that I was going pretty fast and also not really aware of the road at all, but flowing onward on automatic pilot.  Then it just hit me that pretty much everything I do is beyond my control.  The only thing I control is the decisions I make, moment by moment.  I decide to drive the car, and then somehow it happens. I drive home. I don’t think about pushing on the gas pedal.  I don’t think about the road home. It just happens.  That’s true of almost any activity.  Even writing creatively happens after I make a decision. Sometimes I have to make that decision over and over again, ten times within ten minutes, etc.  but it happens at some point without my having to think about it every time I think of typing. Words just come out.

I have absolutely no control on the outcome of anything.  If anyone reading this think that they do, maybe they’ve just had more breaks than me.  But we have no control over anything except the decisions we make.  Maybe even those are not entirely in our control.  I’ve often had the feeling, after I said or did something stupid, that it just came out of me, that I didn’t will it for it to happen at all.

So, then, the problem.

I think the Buddha got it only partially right.  It’s not desire that makes us suffer (I always had trouble accepting that one).  I think it’s lack of control.  You could argue that desiring control is desire, but that’s just semantics. If you think about it, it’s utterly terrifying to have consciousness, to know of all the things that might happen to you at any given moment, and to realize, on a very quiet, very suffused, very unconscious level, that you can’t help anything that happens to you.

Thus, the often stated maxim that the only way to achieve enlightenment is through surrender.  Imagine jumping out of a plane: complete surrender.  Terrifying.  And we can’t even be sure that we have a parachute strapped on, or that we’d know how to make it function, even if we did.  That’s how I think about life.

I’ve always blamed the fact that I’m incredibly indecisive on two things: 1. that my parents were controlling and didn’t allow me to make any decisions over my life until I was well into my adult years, which makes me a novice at it.  2. that I’m a Libra, and Libras are notoriously indecisive, because we have to consider every last facet of a situation, weight its pros and cons etc. before we can move in any direction.  Oftentimes I get stuck in a funk when I can’t go in any direction: it’s like a switch has clicked and I can’t make a decision at all.  I keep revisiting the same possibilities over and over again, make myself decide, try to make peace with whatever decision I take out of exhaustion and desperation, but then always end up going back on it, rethinking it.  It’s pathological paralysis.  Will power has nothing to do with it.  Anymore, anyways, than an OCD can help straightening out her pencils.

But now I think that there is a third reason that I am so bad at taking important decisions:  that moment when anything is possible is the only real moment of control I have.  Leaf and Dew Drop
It’s that moment of absolute possibility.  In quantum physics also there is a moment before which a particle has made a choice as to where to be: at that point, the particle is everywhere.

Once the choice is made, there it goes again: it’s in the hands of life, of randomness, of fate, God, whatever you want to call it.  But what’s important here is that it’s no longer in my hands.

A lot of times when I get morose like this I tend to think of how low my expectations for my life have gotten.  I had many ambitions of being famous and rich and loved and beautiful and now I think I’d just be happy if I didn’t have real trouble, if I could keep my house as is, my husband as is, my job as is.

When we are children we don’t dream of being rich or having successful careers or of getting power in government. I used to dream of being invisible; of teleporting anyplace in the world I thought of; of flying, of having magic, of owning a stable of tiny little people to whom I was a god and benefactor.

I asked Joel when I got home what he used to aspire to when he was a boy.  “I wanted to be left alone,” was his reply.  But after a while he thought of other things: rockets, driving boats, flying.

Every human dreams of being a god.  Every human yearns for control over his or her life, or over the Universe, which is to say, it’s the same thing.  We are somehow wired to yearn for this, and also not to have it.

But one thing is a lesson: as children we don’t care about things.  We don’t dream of enslaving ourselves with money and high level jobs.  We dream of being free.

Now, if I could wish for one power, one special power, I think I’d chose to make it beautiful.  I will write this out and tape it near my desk.  Make it beautiful.  I couldn’t stay young forever or make myself rich, but I would make my house beautiful, my relationships beautiful, my work beautiful, my novels, my lectures.  I could not avoid death or avert illness, but I’d make it beautiful.  Someone’s heart will flower.  Someone’s spirit will soar.

Published by laura

I'm the author of two short story collections, a story cycle, and a collection of short memoirs. I am an educator, literary translator, journal editor, and writing coach.

8 thoughts on “Make It Beautiful

  1. Interesting, I am feeling the same. I’m about to go back to work after the Xmas, and there are those thoughts ‘What am I doing? Do I really want to do this job? Is this right? Am I going to do this for ever? When will I be happy/satisfied/successful in this job?’ And all the accompanying dread, anxiety, hitched breathing and panicky fluttering sensations. I try to meditate and I feel swamped. I come onto WordPress, select Buddha as a topic, and immediately find 2 posts on the same theme! The Buddha is still alive, teaching through all of us! I can go back to meditate now, with this insight: I am not in control and the desire for it is what causes suffering. I just rev logged someone’s post on the four noble truths and the eightfold path, in which s/he discusses the issue of desire and moermanence and this blog gave me the personal angle. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for that. It’s nice to know that we all have these feelings. I get all of this stuff in theory. It’s a lot harder to just try to stay with the moment all the time.

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