(Follow this link to see the March 2021 Priory Newsletter where this was published.)
Recently I found myself laughing at the thought that, again, it was just not going to be how I wanted it. I can’t even remember what “it” was that I thought I wanted; maybe it was just for things to go “my way” for a bit, but it was clear that things were not going to break my way.
Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett taught that that line, “The physical world is not answerable to my personal will,” was a law of the universe: wherever we go in the whole of existence, we will not be able to control circumstances. When we hold onto wanting to have “what we want, when we want it, the way we want it,” there is inevitably going to be suffering.
It is true that sometimes we get what we want and sometimes that might even be a good thing. But it is also true that we just can’t expect to control things in a way that will insure that we always get what we want and this too is actually a good thing. How limiting and limited my life would be if it were only constrained to what I could conceive of to want?
There is a poem by Wendell Berry that speaks to this called “Our Real Work:”
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
At the time of being impeded by our frustrated desire, if we can muster the will to bow, to sit still, to let go and accept how things actually are, who knows what song might emerge?
Poem copyright ©1983 by Wendell Berry, from Standing by Words.