The Highest Achievement

This week I want to continue sharing some of the shining nuggets of wisdom that serendipity led me to find.  I picked three that have served me well, especially when I’m catching up with the day’s headlines.  In fact, I’ve come to look at reading the news as a kind of test to see how well I’m doing with them.

The first one comes from Zen teacher Traleg Rinpoche: “The only thing we really have any control over,” he says, “is our own experience.”  That’s a tough one!  Am I getting irritated?  Frustrated? Angry? Depressed?  Whose fault is that?

It’s mine, I realize, when I remember this nugget.  And when I realize it, I’m free to examine my feeling, to choose to let it go, or to contemplate why I’m holding the thought, what stories it’s triggering, whether there’s a larger context than what I’m focusing on.  I can play with looking at my reaction from a different perspective.  I can recognize that what I’m feeling is simply an automatic reaction to whatever evoked it.  It’s a mere thought, and I can acknowledge it and let it go.  Or I can listen to it and see what it’s asking of me.  But I get to choose.  I get to claim my power to control my experience.

The second piece of wisdom comes from Osho, who counsels:  “Don’t seek, don’t search, don’t ask, don’t knock, don’t demand – relax.  If you relax it comes.  If you relax it is there.”

Oh!  Yes, of course.  Relax.  In my experience, that’s advice of the very highest order.  And I love linking it to my realization that I get to control my experience.  Relaxing opens my heart and my mind.  It lets unnecessary thoughts and emotions float away.  It brings me back to the present and centers me.  To my delight, it arouses my sense of humor and my sense of wonder.  It allows me to remember that everything is a grand mystery and that I’m lucky to be experiencing it.

And that leads me to the third nugget, a Zen proverb that says, “To be calm is the highest achievement of the self.”  It’s the highest achievement because it provides the highest rewards.  To be calm is to have inner peace, to know serenity regardless of what is happening in the world around you or within your own body or mind.  It summarizes both of the previous two nuggets.  It allows you to respond to life with authenticity and presence.

Unlike the realization of self-possession in the first nugget, or the counsel to relax in the second one, calm isn’t a means to an end, but an end in itself.  It’s the state to which self-possession and relaxation lead.  It’s evenness in mind, emotions and spirit, a beautifully worthwhile space in which to live.

So I give you these three nuggets to place in your pocket.  Think of them as smooth pebbles you can caress with your fingers whenever you notice that you’re ruffled or out of sorts.  I especially recommend holding them in your hand whenever you read the day’s news.


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