Monday, September 15, 2014

Taking Life too Seriously

"At the Desert Retreat House"

Yesterday I was struck by an online comment someone made in response to one of my posts.  The person was agonizing over the fact that he was unsure if he was "on the right track"  - he didn't know if he was acting according to "God's plan" for his life.    

That remark got me thinking about the many "religious" and "spiritual" conversations I have with people every day - they are always so very "serious."  When we talk about "religion," "God," "belief" "spiritual discipline"-it all seems like pretty serious business. The task of figuring out who "God" is and determining "God's" plan for one's life sounds like quite a weighty burden to assume.  

I also find that many religious "church-people" (especially church leaders) believe they have the additional burden of saving a dying church and preserving a fading "tradition" in this time of significant institutional decline.  And even people who aren't particularly religious, but see themselves as walking a spiritual path can also be very austere. I am often rather entertained by online conversations about exactly how much time one needs to devote to daily meditation, proper breathing techniques, and the correct interpretation of "Buddhist" teaching.

Lots of people nowadays take life very seriously, probably too seriously, and this is  especially true when you factor in God-talk, religious belief and spiritual practice.

Maybe people take life too seriously because they take themselves  too seriously -  imagining that they are so important that God has a master plan just for them, or assuming that it's up to them to save the church, or that if they don't practice the proper meditation technique they will be a spiritual failure. 

Something Eckhart Tolle once said comes to mind:

Life isn't as serious as the mind makes it out to be

This makes a lot of sense to me.  

We take life too seriously when we allow our "ego," our thinking, to control our everyday living.  From the perch of my ego,  the course of everyday life is up to "me" - that's why "I" must be always planning and plotting and strategizing to achieve "my" desired outcomes. Yet very little if anything in life is under the control of any one of us, and most of life is a vast mystery.

"God" is  a mystery beyond comprehension, a mystery that cannot even be named, let alone explained. As I see it, there is no master plan crafted for each of our individual lives, designed by a divine master planner, so any attempt to figure out such a plan is a "serious" waste of energy.  And, there are no formulae or guaranteed strategies for achieving desired outcomes in life, especially in the spiritual life. 

Life simply comes to us, "life happens," and by embracing it instead of resisting it we find a deeper peace.

Eckhart Tolle also wisely said:

Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have.
Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.

Maybe if more people did this, we wouldn't all be taking life so seriously. 


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