August 28, 2017

Buddhism & Restless Soul Syndrome.

Humans are all different.

There are some who have an incessant curiosity for life that will never be tamed, and there are others who are content with what surrounds them, with no great desire to challenge themselves outside of their routine daily existence.

Some souls passionately burn from the inside out, and no amount of water will put their inner fire out.

I have always had a restless soul. I’m a questioner, seeker, searcher, and explorer of what’s still to be discovered.

My soul is naturally inquisitive, and as much as I’ve tried to calm and quell it with meditation, yoga, and numerous other mindfulness practices, it refuses to be silenced and settle.

The Buddha believed there was no such thing as a soul, however I believe he too had a restless soul and that restlessness was what compelled him to seek enlightenment and discover what causes suffering and figure out how to eliminate it.

Buddhists consider thirst, desire, and longing to be the causes of suffering, however, I hold no attachments to what I thirst, desire, or long for. I recognize that nothing is permanent or perfect, and that nothing will offer eternal happiness, satisfaction, or fulfillment.

Therefore, I don’t perceive my desires to be delusional, and this awareness allows me to embrace my restlessness rather than abstaining from devoting myself to what brings me pleasure and joy.

Although I am in a constant state of yearning that relentlessly pulls me to the edge of the Earth, I have no attachments to my cravings and zero expectations for the outcomes of whatever I long for.

In the past, I have considered sacrificing my quest for the unknown and pondered denying my desires to witness sights not yet seen, but I’ve consciously chosen not to avoid living in a way that makes me feel passionately alive.

When I reflect upon the Buddha’s eightfold path, which is the Buddha’s teaching to overcome suffering, I can see that it is possible to align with that path alongside living in a way that feels authentic to me.

I resonate with much of what I’ve learned about Buddhism, therefore, I contemplate and observe how the eightfold path relates to my restless ways:

Right view: I accept imperfection and understand that my cravings will not bring fulfillment and that suffering is just part of being alive. I also observe the Four Noble Truths and adhere to them to alleviate any unnecessary suffering.

Right aspiration: I live free from attachment and wholeheartedly aspire to improve myself and refrain from indulging in resentment and hatred.

Right speech: I do my best to exist cruelty and harm-free and pursue my dreams with a positive outlook and without using harmful or untrue speech that may cause suffering to myself or others.

Right action: I adhere to nonviolence and have no materialistic or monetary desires or attachments, and abstain from acting immorally, or disrespectfully, toward myself or others.

Right livelihood: I carry out my work compassionately and with respect for all living creatures, and try not to violate or negatively impact others.

Right effort: Although my mind wanders, I am focused and have control over it. I am conscious of my thought patterns and do not act impulsively on ones that could cause any form of destruction to myself or others.

Right mindfulness: I am aware, mindful, and pay attention so that I do not become distracted by greed or superficial conveniences that compromise my beliefs and provide instant-gratification.

Right concentration: I meditate daily to reach enlightenment and to quiet and empty my mind so that my cravings do not influence me to spend time and energy indulging in thoughts or activities that are not beneficial and ideally should be avoided.

As I get older, the restlessness does not quell, it only gets louder, more ferocious, and demanding. It yells at me to let go of all attachments and roam aimlessly without direction.

I remind myself to have patience so that I don’t resort to extreme action to satisfy my soul’s rumbling. At times though, my longings grow so strong that I feel like recklessly discarding everything I’ve worked for, cutting loose from all that binds me, and travelling barefoot with nothing but paper and pen, just trusting in wherever my aching soul takes me.

However, I rationalize and choose ways of incorporating these longings into my work so that I can wander freely while remaining grounded, knowing that I do not need to abandon what I currently have in order to gain what my soul thinks it needs.

I could swim in every salt lake on the planet and still my heart would cry out, forcing me to search for more. I could road trip through every state in the U.S. by RV, and I’d find an insatiable thirst to drive again on dirt roads in a red vintage car with hair loose and the rooftop rolled down.

I will always desire meaningful connections with otherworldly humans and will eternally feel the need to absorb myself in conversation consisting of stars, distant planets, and hold deep debates about the purpose of all existence.

It isn’t always easy to adhere to responsibilities, chores, and daily commitments when I’m an explorer of minds, mountains, and mysterious infinite possibilities. As hard as I’ve tried to be conventional, I feel trapped when stuck indoors and find my thoughts rambling through forests, sliding down waterfalls, and treading haunting ocean floors.

I hear echoes from valleys and the whispers from trees and know that they call me to visit, to taste vast heights, and roam freely on overgrown, untouched land. If I died having chased every sunset, my heart would still tug to remind me that time had run out, and I would never be able to catch one more.

Everything is intense—every emotion vivid, every feeling magnified, and every thought is tangled with tormenting “what if’s.” It seems nothing and no one can capture my attention for long. I’m a restless runaway with wanderlust fiercely pulsating through my veins.

I want to converse with those whose language I can’t speak, ride rustic motorbikes, and sail forbidden, long forgotten seas. I want to lie out beneath thunderstorms, walk round every art museum and strum my old guitar in backstreet bars.

I’d rather spend my days bathing in oceans, evenings cooking on campfires, and I’d sooner choose to sleep in hammocks on deserted beaches over the safety of duvet-laden beds in houses made of bricks.

I’d like to live in lonely, weather-beaten cabins and sail on boats that carelessly drift too far out to sea, and I never want to call just one place on earth my home.

My bones are fueled with passion. I cannot bear stillness, my head is incurably rebellious, and I am scattered—my heart is far too curious to find permanent calm.

I’ve tried, but I find it impossible to exist any other way when this world is filled with so much to see and so many things I badly want to get to know.

Restless soul syndrome is an intrinsic part of who I am, and I’ve come to accept that I am an untethered creature, and although this may sound contradictory to the Buddhist aim of achieving inner peace, I hope I’ll always have a soul that refuses to rest and that incessantly hungers for more.




Author: Alex Myles
Image: Courtesy of the Author
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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