"Bird on a Wire" © Sylvia Plachy
“Bird on a Wire” © Sylvia Plachy

Above all, a materialistic society desires certainty—it seeks to guarantee it; passes laws to enforce it; wipes our the pathogens that threaten it; and lets everyone have guns to protect it. Even the seemingly innocuous habits of inking in plans and clinging to beliefs and opinions are the reverse-image of the uncertainties that the heart yearns to be certain about.

Yet, if we seek security in that which is inherently uncertain, dukkha, or discontent, is the inevitable result.

Fear is a discomfiting friend. The impulse is to get to a place of safety, but where in the phenomenal world—either mental or physical—could that be? The insight of the Buddha, informed by his own experiences of exploring fear and dread, encourages us to make a 180-degree turn. Whereas the instinct is to shrink away from the threatening aspects of life, his injunction for those who wish to free the heart is to contemplate frequently the following:

I am of the nature to age, I have not gone beyond aging;
I am of the nature to sicken, I have not gone beyond sickness;
I am of the nature to die, I have not gone beyond dying;
All that is mine, beloved and pleasing, will become
otherwise, will become separated from me.

For that which is threatening to the ego is liberating for the heart.

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