Perhaps our life has stopped growing in meaningful ways. Although we may not be suffering grossly, we’re not looking forward to anything either. We’re getting through our days, eating, sleeping, paying bills, going to work, and dying a little bit every day. This might be analogous to the Buddha’s first noble truth of suffering. It's the first blessing on the path of self discovery because it can provoke a question that burns in our heart.
Many of us have probably had moments when we stepped through a portal which became a passageway to the next chapter of our life—the next relationship, the next job, the next place to live, or perhaps our status abruptly changed as we became a parent, a widow, a retiree, or a disabled person.
At the moment a gate opened, which might have felt both fearful and inviting, fortuitous yet uncertain. We begin a journey that cuts a path beneath the surface of our everyday life. It might present itself as some innocent mishap or chance encounter that hints of an unsuspected world lying parallel to our everyday life.
A gate has a paradoxical function. It both permits and restricts entrance. Once we inch up to the gate and step through it, we might realize that the life we’ve been living has become mind-numbing and deadening, that we’re not hearing, seeing, or feeling anything refreshingly new. Once we step through such a gate we're stepping into the unknown where our unlived life awaits us. Life’s mysteries seem to surface in the cracks where our familiar and predictable life begins to crumble. At such times we could suddenly become aware of a gate that has been closed for decades.
When we enter into the deeper dimensions of our mind and our heart, we meet the uninspected portions of our life. We might notice for the first time that our teenage daughter or son doesn't depend on us or consult with us any longer, but prefers the counsel of her or his peers. Although we appreciate their maturity and new-found freedom, we might also feel obsolescent in our role as a parent.
On the other hand, the gate door could swing open as we experience liberation from our parental role as we joyfully anticipate opportunities that we had postponed for many years. While preparing breakfast one morning, a heaviness lingers in our heart, pressing downwards, as we’re gripped by the tedium of getting through another day without anything bright or promising to look forward to. Yet, in the next moment our knife cuts through a Macintosh apple, piercing the early-morning stillness with a crisp shhhhhhhhhhish..... Just that, and nothing else. Suddenly the melodious song of a sparrow draws our attention to the window where a Japanese maple dances in the wind, reminding us that this moment is the best season of our lives. A gate opens.
The haunting truth is that wherever you go, there you are! There’s no real escape from ourselves and so when we talk about freedom in a spiritual sense we’re talking about freedom from the patterns that shape our thoughts, emotions and behavior, patterns that make us quite predictable and that limit us. Recognizing our patterns and gradually liberating ourselves from their a grip, is what opens the gate. This is the invitation to spread our wings and fly into the uncharted territory of the life that’s waiting for us. Meditation is like walking through one gate after another.
Meditation reveals that when we fully land in the moment we're already having, surprisingly, we might find ourselves at ease. It's the struggle to be other than where we are that keeps the gate closed. This is Buddha’s second noble truth, the cause of suffering—the desire for more or something other than what’s already here.