“We generally interpret the world so heavily in terms of good and bad, happy and sad, nice and not nice that the world doesn’t get a chance to speak for itself.
When we say, “Be a child of illusion,” we’re beginning to get at this fresh way of looking when we’re not caught in our hope and fear. We become mindful, awake and gentle with our hope and fear. We see them clearly with less bias, less judgment, less sense of a heavy trip. When this happens, the world will speak for itself.”
(Start Where You Are: “Let the World Speak for Itself.”)
I don’t like this chapter. I want to fight with it. I want to say, “Yeah, but…this really is bad. Or this really is awesome. I really am afraid. I really have hope.”
As I went to bed last night I had that unfinished nagging feeling that I had forgotten to finish something. I hate that. It was this. Kind of apropos, though. Let things be as they are. Let the world speak for itself.
“We begin to let opposites coexist, not trying to get rid of anything but training and opening our eyes, ears, nostrils, taste buds, hearts and minds wider and wider, nurturing the habit of opening to whatever is occurring, including our shutting down.”
I have to be honest, even though I know it to be true and beneficial, this is hard for me. I like symmetry. I like everything nice and neatly tied up and paired off. I don’t like letting things be. I like to fix them. I like to do. I like to interpret. I’m an editor. If something feels incongruous, I want to fix it. I’m the person who will straighten your picture if I notice it’s crooked and line up everything in a nice neat little row.
Life isn’t like that.
Enlightenment doesn’t come in a pretty little box. It’s making peace with and acknowledging the parts that are messy that teaches us the most. It’s looking at what is, with curiosity, instead of needing to immediately nail it down and define it.
In this idea of being a “child of illusion” post-meditation (which is to say, all the time) we let go of the need to nail things down and call them good or bad. We stop trying to fix everything and figure out whether we like it or not or whether it makes us happy or sad. I don’t want to do that. I’m a writer. I want to use my words and talk and write until I’m blue in the face and have figured everything out, checked everything off my list and put everything in it’s appropriate box.
But no. It’s time to let go of that. Instead, it’s time for a “fresh outlook, wide-open eyes and curiosity.”
Pema ends the chapter with a wonderful story about a Native American man named Ishi, who was the last of his tribe. One day he appeared on the streets in California, naked and alone. An anthropologist bailed him out of jail and introduced him to a bit of “civilized” San Francisco culture. Ishi took it all in, tried his best to do as he saw those around him doing and was filled with curiosity and wonder at all of it.
Later, when he spoke with the anthropologist about his first experience going on the train, he explained that for his whole life, he and the members of his tribe had though trains fire breathing demons that ate people.
Kroeber (the anthropologist) asked him how he had the courage to get on, thinking it was a demon that would swallow him up.
“Well, my life has taught me to be more curious than afraid.”
Ishi’s life had taught him how to be a child of illusion.
Maybe, just for today (and then for tomorrow, try again tomorrow), be more curious than afraid.
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