The Script of Ignorance

We all know the lists, the if-onlys, the whens: when I go to college, if only I had a job, when I get married, if only I had or didn’t have children, when the kids go to college, when I get divorced, if only I had enough money, when I retire, etc. Although happiness has never appeared before in any stable or enduring way, we harbor the recurring, unreflective thought that when our desired conditions are met, then happiness will be lastingly mine. Such is our ignorance talking. Its script is handed to it by craving. We can see the endless cycling, the entrapment, the binding.

From Unbinding: The Grace Beyond Self, by Kathleen Dowling Singh © 2017. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications (wisdompubs.org). Kathleen Dowling Singh is a dharma practitioner, speaker, and teacher. She is the author of The Grace in Aging and The Grace in Living.

A Life in Gratitude

The quality of our life is determined by our mind’s response to the circumstances of our life. It is not determined directly by the circumstances. We make the mistake of trying to produce happiness and meaning by controlling circumstances, mistakenly thinking that they are the primary cause. In the old texts, this is referred to as “beating the cart to make the horse move.”

The more we are attached to this approach, the more vulnerable we become to anxiety, because there is no certainty that we can attain or produce the proper circumstances. And if we do produce the proper circumstances there is no certainty that they will endure, and so our emotions are constantly destabilized.

The pursuit of circumstances as the goal in life has an important corollary— that we, just as we are, are insufficient and unsatisfied, and that only through accomplishing certain things with our lives do we fulfill or justify our being here. This error is the source of constant stress, and it also makes no sense. And this is why society finds young people, even those in the upper classes, breaking under this horrible burden—abusing drugs and alcohol, cutting themselves, and even committing suicide, because their operating system is so divorced from reality, from genuine sanity.

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