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The Life We Are Given

| Nirmala | Suffering

The Life We Are Given

Published on
07 May 2003

An excerpt from the nondual book, Nothing Personal, Seeing Beyond the Illusion of a Separate Self  by Nirmala.

Our suffering doesn’t come from any experience but from our resistance to the experience. Likewise, our joy doesn’t come from any experience; it comes from our deeper nature. It is an innate quality of our Being.

There’s a book out there with a great title: The Life We Are Given by George Leonard and Michael Murphy. So much of the time we don’t show up for the life we’re given but for the life we think we should have been given. This effort to have a different life is actually the cause of our suffering. It turns out that our joy doesn’t stem from circumstances either. It comes from just being with the life we’re given.

In hearing this, we naturally conclude that the way to end our suffering is to stop resisting. However, trying to do anything about your resistance is just another attempt to change the way things are. The only thing to do about this dilemma is to simply be willing to experience it.

A good metaphor for being with your experience in this way is trying to grow something. If you’re trying to grow a plant, you don’t go out in the yard every day and tug on it to get it to grow faster. Instead, you’re just present to the plant, to its natural unfolding. You provide the environment for that growth to take place. You water the plant and fertilize it, but you don’t actually do anything to the plant. Doing something to the plant itself could actually harm it.

The flow of conditioning is not a mistake. Part of this conditioning is the feeling that something is wrong with an experience and it needs fixing. As a result, it’s counterintuitive to approach the cause of our suffering with other than the attitude of trying to fix it. We have to learn to let it have its natural rhythm and evolution and yet be very much in contact with it.

So, I’m inviting you to do some inquiry—to inquire into everything that’s in the life you are given and not to change it in anyway. Because the suffering in our lives is caused by our attempts to change things, the inquiry I’m suggesting is an inquiry into whether or not that is happening, without doing anything about it. Inquiry into what is here right now is like picking the fruit that’s ripe: Instead of going to the apple tree in the spring and being disappointed because there are no apples, you go to the strawberry patch and enjoy the strawberries—because strawberries are what is here.

All of our suffering is just our conditioning, and that’s part of the life we are given. No one grows up without conditioning. The surprise is that there’s just as much joy in being with conditioning as in being with a transcendent experience or profound realization. Because this joy is more obvious in a spiritual experience, we often make the mistake of thinking that it comes from a spiritual experience, when actually it comes from just meeting that experience, which is easy to do in the case of a spiritual experience. There can be just as much joy in meeting our conditioning, but we have to be willing to do this even if our conditioning doesn’t change. We have to be willing to let it change in its own season. Some fruit ripens in the spring and some in the fall.

Regardless of what is arising, liberation is here right now. The invitation is to inquire into what is arising—just because it’s here and not for any other reason. If conditioning is arising in you right now, even if there’s conditioning to try to fix or change things, that’s the life you are given right now. There is no better life. There is no better service than to fully experience your life and find out the truth of it. Inquire into it without trying to get rid of any part of it; it may not be the season for that part of life to ripen and be done. And yet, even when it’s not the season for apples, you still water the apple tree. So, even if it is not the time for your conditioning to end, you can still give it this gift of simply seeing it, truly looking at what’s here. That will help it ripen. 


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