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The Web of Life

Mindful Reflection Tip #5

Sometimes you have freedom of choice, but other times you’re bound by the consequences of those choices.

The Web of Life

Life isn’t just a biochemical reaction. It’s the constant flux of mind and matter. What you are is a product of your environment. What would you think and feel, wonder or worry about if it weren’t for the words and ideas, love and frustrations of others?

Another way of saying this is that life is contingent: everything connects — directly or indirectly, in space or in time. Your sense of self is not just an idea, it’s the story of your life, deeply rooted in emotions, habitual responses, unconscious patterns and all that has molded you.

You are both less and more than you imagine. You’re not a totally free agent responsible for everything you experience; neither are you an eternal victim of circumstances. You’re part of a bigger picture in which sometimes you have freedom of choice, but other times you’re bound by the consequences of those choices, in which getting what you don’t want may be the greatest gift of all.

Your life is ruled by cause and effect, not by you. You learn and grow intuitively. You’re creative and compassionate to the extent that you don’t allow self-consciousness to get in the way. Understanding this as a fact is not enough. Only by reflecting on it repeatedly will you come to see yourself in a new light.

Remind yourself at every opportunity that you’re not in control. You don’t need to take the reins of life, can’t be who you think you should be. It’ll never happen anyway. Mindfulness gives you breathing room because it’s not about how things should be; it’s about how they are. Allow mistakes; give yourself a break. Instead of setting yourself up for future frustration by vowing to never make another, just be more attentive. Instead of trying to take the reins or the blame, be honest with yourself. It’s the key to growth.

At the root of dishonesty is fear. It comes from thinking you need to be other than you are. Contingency means you’re a product of circumstances — nothing other than can be expected. Ego is threatened by this, but the ego’s not your friend. It’s something made up to protect itself. Weird? You bet. Contradictory, irrational and confounding? Welcome to human life.

Expose your contingency wherever you are — in conversation, at work, while commiserating with a friend, washing dishes, working out, practicing yoga, grieving, travelling, feeling bored, experiencing stress, listening to music, fighting. Everything’s contingent. You’re contingent.

When you’re connected to the web of life you have immense strength and profound peace, but to truly share in the way things are, you must let go.

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8 responses to “The Web of Life”

  1. Simeon

    I was glad I found your book advertised on the side bar on Facebook. I have practiced some Mahayana Buddhism here in Deer Park Oregon, Wisconsin. But for awhile I have been seeking what Buddha actually said on things. I have been working on the understanding I have no control. I can see the cause and effect with in most things. I believe in compassion, loving kindness etc.. Obviously, it’s best when it’s genuine and honest. I understand I have no control but I also understand I am another point of cause and effect. I can cause pain or bring love. Hate and violence or kindness and generosity. I think so far in my layman studies that small bits of cycles can be broken by our attentiveness. Hope I am making sense. Thank you for putting your thoughts and experiences in a book. I hope to purchase and read it soon.

  2. Martin

    Stephen,

    Thanks for the articulate and insightful words, in particular –

    ‘At the root of dishonesty is fear. It comes from thinking you need to be other than you are.’

    I can see this ‘desire to be’ is a major illness of our times, whether it is to be happy, beautiful or whatever…ironically religious groups also fall foul in this respect encouraging us to be good, spiritual, compassionate, wise or enlightened instead of guiding us to true humility by being ordinary and honest.

    Keep writing!

  3. Carol Newman

    I was glad I found your book advertised on the side bar on Facebook. I have practiced some Mahayana Buddhism here in Deer Park Oregon, Wisconsin. But for awhile I have been seeking what Buddha actually said on things. I have been working on the understanding I have no control. I can see the cause and effect with in most things. I believe in compassion, loving kindness etc.. Obviously, it’s best when it’s genuine and honest. I understand I have no control but I also understand I am another point of cause and effect. I can cause pain or bring love. Hate and violence or kindness and generosity. I think so far in my layman studies that small bits of cycles can be broken by our attentiveness. Hope I am making sense. Thank you for putting your thoughts and experiences in a book. I hope to purchase and read it soon.
    +1

  4. Martin

    I would be interested in reading some of your insights on the guru-disciple relationship and the suitability/pitfalls of such a model in the modern age. How did you cope with rejecting those relationships in your own life..and now with your role as a teacher how do you approach this?

  5. Peter CLOTHIER

    “At the root of dishonesty is fear…” Yes! Thanks for the reminder!

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