When I arrived at Abhayagiri five months ago, I had a plan. I was going to stay there indefinitely, and all was going to go perfectly.
As I’ve heard in the past, “If you want to make the universe laugh, just develop a plan”.
As I stayed here, I was reminded that my plan was not necessarily the plan of the community. It would remain to be seen whether it would work out to have me stay. And on my end, as I learned what living in a large community entailed, there was some wavering. Was this what I really wanted? Could I fit in to this large group and lifestyle? But in time I began to feel the strength of the community, and the benefit of living and practicing within it. Once again, I felt a firm resolve to stay put. I had a plan.
Despite the fact that everything around us is constantly changing, the mind clings to the idea of certainty, to safety. The habit is in our DNA, to ensure the continuity of the species. And yet, the very clinging for safety, the constant planning, the gripping to the “sure thing”, causes stress. There’s no end to it. It’s like walking up an icy hill, scrambling for purchase that isn’t there. Or, as in one of my favorite movies, The Christmas Story, like Ralphie scrambling up the slide to try to get what he wants from Santa Claus (Watch here).
Ajahn Chah, the founder of the tradition which Abhayagiri follows, used to frequently say “Mae Naer” or, “Not sure”. No matter how much control we think we have over what happens, it’s not sure. Even the thoughts we have in our mind, and their validity – not sure. The validity of the contents of this blog? Not sure.
Intellectually it makes sense that all is changing, and that what I think to be true may not be. Yet in actuality it’s been a more challenging practice to incorporate. I like to be in control. Who doesn’t? Yet I’m reminded over and over again that I’m not. Despite scrambling for purchase on the slide of life and occasionally reaching the top again, the foot of reality says “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid”, and I’m once again going for a ride.
In my life, change has struck again. While I will be returning to Abhayagiri for a few weeks after this coming trip to Canada, I won’t be staying there as originally planned. Instead, I’ll be spending some time with my parents in Pennsylvania. I’m ok with this new plan, and it feels like the right thing to do right now. And maybe, just maybe, it’s not so much a plan, as just accepting what is, right now.
Be well and peaceful dear readers, and in the words of Ajahn Sona, another teacher in this tradition….
“Don’t worry. Everything is perfectly out of control”.