It occurs to me that as human beings, amongst the myriad of things we require to survive, there are two fundamental needs that interweave and bubble along throughout our lives; i.e. certainty and freshness. You could also refer to these opposing needs as ‘the changing’ and ‘the changeless’. In differing degrees, at different times of course, but the need for both is undeniable. Where we look to get these needs met makes a big difference in our chances of success.
Resistant to change?
I know that many of us are resistant to change, but at the same time we get very bored if things stay the same for too long. For me, music is a good example of this. I’m the sort of person who will play my favourite song over and over. And, no matter how much I loved it to begin with, I eventually tire of it and it no longer evokes the same feeling.
Where we look for certainty
I think it’s fair to say that we often look for certainty and stability in things that, by their very nature, will never be able to provide it. All the things or objects of the world are constantly changing; our bodies, relationships, roles, our possessions. And yet, many of us look to them to sure up our sense of certainty. These are the things we want to pin down in life, get right, fix.
We may have a list of conditions that need to be met to make us happy in an imagined future. By the time we’ve managed to tick some or all of the boxes on that list, it has evolved into a new list. We find ourselves on a treadmill, chasing ever moving goal posts and perpetually striving towards some future reality that remains out of reach. Most of us dedicate ourselves to this pursuit for most of our lives. Perhaps only in later years or when an unexpected wind of life throws us off course do we consider questioning it.
There is nowhere to go
All of this operates in keeping us out of presence, missing the wonder of the moment, restless and listless, ever striving towards the arrival of peace and fulfillment sometime in the future. And, quite simply, we’re never going to get there. We will never arrive, because we are already here and don’t recognise it. There is nowhere to go.
I’m really not suggesting that the changing things of life aren’t fulfilling, of course they are, but they can’t be relied upon as our core sense of certainty and stability that is going to see us through any storm. They don’t meet that need, no matter how wonderful they are.I’m really not suggesting that the changing things of life aren’t fulfilling, of course they are, but they can’t be relied upon as our core sense of certainty and stability that is going to see us through any storm. They don’t meet that need, no matter how wonderful they are.
Is there anything that can be relied upon for certainty?
So, where or how might we find such certainty? Is there anything that can be relied upon for certainty and stability? Hmmm, no, because all ‘things’ change. However, there is a place within us that is unchanging. There are no words for it though. Calling it a place isn’t accurate. It’s beyond language. Language applies only to the world of things. However, language is all we have to point towards it. Just like a map we follow to find our way to a destination, the map isn’t the actual territory, it’s a symbolic representation to help us find our way. It’s a ‘place’ of no things.
Where in a world obsessed by objects and definitions
This illusive changelessness can be difficult to recognise in a world obsessed by objects and the need to pin things down and define them. But it is always there, for all of us, right under our noses. It is only first-hand experience that will convince you. No dogma, no guru, no ritual can guarantee access. You might stumble upon it accidently, or you may indeed discover it after many years of seeking and searching. Most likely, when you’ve become tired of the search and ready to abandon it.
Your ground of being
And that’s just it, it’s already yours, you already have it. It can only be accessed in the now, in the midst of whatever you are experiencing. Which is good news. There are no perfect conditions required. No matter what you’re experiencing, no one is disqualified. It could perhaps best be described as the substrate of all things. Your ground of being. The vast, open, spaciousness that all experiences arise from and eventually return to.
There is no thing to be found
We’re not accustomed to recognising no thing. But, fortunately it’s the software that’s installed for all of us, our fundamental operating system that we cannot possibly be without. There behind all the busyness, drama and unpredictability, a quiet, unchanging presence. Through contemplative, mindful practice we can become re-acquainted with this unbreakable, unchangeable and ever reliable aspect of who we are. We can come to know its qualities, what it feels like, and bring it forward into our lives instead of drowning it out and passing it by.
Good luck with your seeking, but remember, there is no thing to be found.