Many years ago, too many to count, a friend brought a tape recording to our house (yes, tape) of a talk that contained a marvelous little poem by David Ignatow. I wrote down his words. I've thought a lot about them ever since.
I should be content
to look at a mountain
for what it is
and not as a comment on my life.
In my religious-believing days, I would look for portents, signs, indications that the cosmos had something to say to me. If I was late getting to a meeting of my spiritual group and every traffic light would be green as I approached it, I'd consider that God was on my side.
(Or the guru, since I belonged to an organization headed up by one.)
Even after I embraced atheism, I'd still occasionally wonder, what message is the universe sending to me? My present-day answer: no message at all, because reality, like a mountain, is what it is. It's not about me. Or you. Or anybody else.
Today I was late for my 4:30 pm Tai Chi class, per usual. I felt like I'd get there close to on time, until I noticed flashing lights of several police cars that were diverting traffic from the street I was on because of an accident.
I had to go out of my way to detour around the blockade. Pleasingly, a car pulled out of a parking space as I got close to the building that houses the Tai Chi class. Somehow I was almost on time, a remarkable feat that a classmate remarked on.
But I didn't look on this as a comment on my life. It was just life, just a sequence of events that had nothing to do with me, even though I was experiencing them.
A few days ago I had coffee with someone who wanted to talk about local politics, one of my favorite subjects. Our conversation went in many different directions, so I can't remember what led me to quote the Ignatow poem, which I managed to mangle while still conveying the meaning accurately.
I told this person that my goal is not only to be able to look at a mountain as not being a comment on my life, but something more radical: to look upon my own life as not being a comment on my life.
Meaning, it'd be nice to be content with viewing the things that happen in my life as what they are, and not as a reflection of me. Which probably won't make a whole lot of sense to other people, though it does to me -- more intuitively, than rationally.
Recently I jotted down something Sam Harris said on his Waking Up daily guided meditation that I listen to on my iPhone. It kind of fits with what I'm talking about here. He's speaking about our conscious awareness.
Drop back into the condition of everything arising on its own, the ground of experience.
Harris, being a fan of Dzogchen Buddhism, doesn't consider that we have, or are, a self. There's nobody inside our head watching and doing stuff. There is simply life happening, "everything arising on its own."