As a Westerner drawn o India I see both sides – the beauty and flaws of the East. There are beauties in Western thought too – as this article reminds us. Sadly the rush to Capitalism, fuelled by a need to never be content for too long – lest you don’t chase after your next purchase! – means so few realise there are many thoughts worth considering in the West as well.
But at heart, I’m with Miranda Kerr. ….. Om Bhuh Bhuvah Svaha ok for Miranda it’s Nam Myoho renge Kyo ….and I don’t blame her don’t we all want peace of mind?
I thought when I moved to india I would find peace. Instead I found noise, irritation, nonstop honking and the horns of trains and te endless pressure to conform.
Strangely, it was in those moments of distress I discovered my greatest peace.
There have been spiritual gurus in India because of the endless restless movement of the people. We see the same genius rise in the struggles of Jews, or the peace Rumi expressed during the tumults of Islam.
Gitanjali, the beautiful Nobel prize winning poems of Tagore find love or God (they seem to my reading of many poets to be interchangeable) in the very design and fabric of life’s struggles.
“What we call being depressed is, at heart, an inability to alter how we can tell our story” tweeted Alain De Botton recently.
He was highlighting the Philosophers Guide to Gratitude that pointed out “the call to be more grateful stands in deep conflict with a central drive in human nature: ambition … Capitalism stimulates constant ambition and longing and rewards astute, intense assaults on excellence. Restlessness is the precondition of progress. Nothing should be good enough for very long. “
Contentment is almost dangerous …….. Especially for the market!
There is another point: “encouragement to be ‘grateful’ is not always the kindly act it seems. It may just be another person’s convenient way of disguising their fear of competition or their refusal to engage with the stress and turmoil of aspiration. The insistence that we be more grateful could just be a jealous friend’s way of sidestepping our anxieties while ennobling their lack of effort.”
Marcus Aurelius, like Biblical Solomon, knew the power of gratitude because they both had success.
Appreciating the flowers need not be opting out of life. It is not about naively ignoring lifes shadow. Lack of gratitude may be from a fear of loss, nrvous swings between safety and anxious dissatisfaction.
‘Western’ culture (and I admit thats a faulty distinction) culture has brainwashed us with a ridiculous idea of what is ‘normal’ as if to be happy you need to have miss universe wrapped around yor arm or if you a woman an anorexic waist with the silicon enhanced chest size.
What about appreciating the rhythm of the washing machine? The trancelike simplicity of enjoying Karate Kid style the rhythm of life as you paint a fence?
Perhaps this is why the sense of presence offered in Eastern meditation traditions appeals.
But they exist in the West too. Unfortunately they seem shrouded in a tradition of heady – even ego driven – debate. Which so many of us want to escape.
Nor does gratitude mean to escape future aspiration.
Buddhist teachers like Tara Brach remind us to go into our body and sense were we are contracted. Knowing how we feel in the moment reminds us where we are now. Now matter where you want to go, you have to start where you are. Physically, emotionally and spiritually.
The push for consumerist success however, risks promoting the dissatisfaction to push economic growth. It may help push your personal growth too, but when can you find rest if you are told never stop long enough to smell the roses?
Perhaps that is why some traditions meditate with, or on the dead. The old Hebrew reminded that “everything is vanity” is not pessimistic, but rather a reminder to stop chasing and to be grateful.
Eccl 12:13, 14 “The end of the matter, everything having been heard, fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the entire man. For every deed God will bring to judgment-for every hidden thing, whether good or bad.”
I’m with Miranda Kerr. ….. Om Bhuh Bhuvah Svaha ok for Miranda it’s Nam Myoho renge Kyo ….and I don’t blame her don’t we all want peace of mind?