“I’ve always been serious that way, trying to evolve to a more conscious state. Funny thing about that though. You tweak yourself, looking for more love, less lust, more compassion, less jealousy. You keep tweaking, keep adjusting those knobs until you can no longer find the original settings. In some sense, the original settings are exactly what I’m looking for…a return to the easygoing guy I was before my world got complicated, the nice guy who took things as they came and laughed so hard the blues would blow away in the summer wind.” – Bill Withers
You never know you’re easygoing until you aren’t. Life picks up, and suddenly you find yourself at the end of a long road you don’t remember walking. You miss when things used to sparkle, when every breath was filled with wonder. You wish to find your originality - not what makes you unique, but what makes you authentic. When the Zen masters ask you to “find your original face before you were born” - they’re actually calling you home.
Bill Withers felt the call as most of us do, and physicist Robert Oppenheimer describes it as such:
“There are children playing in the street who could solve some of my top problems in physics, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago”
And so the question of growing up confronts us - and we wonder: How can I bear the weight of the world, without losing my lightness?
“You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your night without a want and a grief, But rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.” -Khalil Gibran
Rising above and learning to live in full rapport with life.
“Forgiveness is to offer no resistance to life - to allow life to live through you. The alternatives are pain and suffering.” - Eckhart Tolle
The alternative to forgiveness is a visceral resentment of the world. So we must embody the freedom that Khalil points to. And work in the way Dogen so aptly suggests: “With a spirit that transcends the world, we do the work of the world”.
The importance of this tasks was emphasized greatly by the poets of old.
“Kabir, what are you doing, sleeping? Why don’t you get up and look? With Him from Whom you are estranged, Again become reunited!” - Kabir
And yet, as enigmatic as ever, Rumi tells us that the burden was never ours to bear, there wasn’t anyone to bear it, and we were never really estranged.
“Why do you stay in prison, when the door is so wide open?”
There was always just life, giving unto itself. If you’ve cultivated a personality that does nothing but resist the flow, does it really serve you?
“When you are sitting in the middle of your own problem, which is more real to you: your problem or you yourself? The awareness that you are here, right now, is the ultimate fact” -Shunryu Suzuki
So the path is a return to the here-and-now. A way of balancing the judging mind and the surrendering heart. Sometimes it feels scary, and that means you’re close to the original settings.
“Fear is a hallmark of your progress on the path. Just as you are about to give birth to further confidence, that breakthrough is preceded by a sense of utter fear. When this occurs in your life, you should examine the nature of fear. This is not based on asking logical questions about fear: “Why am I afraid?” It is simply looking at the state of fear or panic that is taking place in you. Just look at it.” -Chogyam Trungpa
Just look with tender eyes. Just smile with a loving heart. And as D.T. Suzuki writes, “when the mind is ready for some reason or another, a bird flies, or a bell rings, and you at once return to your original home.”
It is as it is.