I’ve noticed over the years there’s always something wrong no matter how right things seem at first. There is a seemingly endless supply of issues to fret over. After we resolve our pressing life and death issues, you’d think we could relax and appreciate that victory. Alas, no sooner is one problem solved than we find another issue to fuss over.
This indicates we have what I’d call a ‘worry gene’, with some folks inheriting an extra helping and some with a more meager serving. Like the gene for body height, some are taller than others, but everyone has height. Simply put, we are all going to worry until our dying day no matter what solutions we embrace to alter that fact (1).
This may sound futile, but there is hope. It begins with recognizing that problems and questions are constant reality. As chapter 16 hints, Knowing the constant allows, allowing therefore impartial, Impartial therefore whole, whole therefore natural. This means accepting the fact that our innovative solutions and answers will always be short-lived. The promise of permanency is merely another of Nature’s hoodwinks. Realizing this helps liberate emotion from expecting to find the perfect solution ‘out there’. With that, you can focus on the one constant problem you may actually have some dominion over. Buddha’s Four Noble Truths points to it, with the last truth being the only solution that rests completely in your hands… or rather your head.
The Fourth Noble Truth is the Middle Path that leads to the cessation of suffering. There is salvation for him whose self disappears before truth, whose will is bent on what he ought to do, whose sole desire is the performance of his duty. He who is wise will enter this path and make an end to suffering. Eight steps on the Middle Path are: Right Understanding, Right Mindedness, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Living, Right Effort, Right Attentiveness, Right Concentration.
Notice that at least half of these steps refer to the mind. Of those, Right Thought may be the one most directly connected to awareness, for without that, the mind, as we know it doesn’t exist. Being awake, attentive, alert, observant, watchful, etc., optimizes all aspects of life for sentient animals. The mind lost in thoughts, imagined ideals, and expectations distracts us from noticing what I regard as ‘the eternal now’. Such presence of mind for humans is the foundation upon which Right Comprehension, Right Resolution, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Living, Right Effort, and especially, Right State of Peaceful Mind rest. Noticing circumstances is for animals (including us) the foundation upon which survival rests. Such watchfulness is the one constant problem you may actually have dominion over. As Christ said, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.” (2)
(1) One important feature of the worry gene is that it drives us to worry about something no matter what. It is the perpetual version of Murphy’s Law. When we lack truly mountainous issues of survival to worry about, we make worrisome mountains out of any molehill in sight. The worry monster must be fed. This easily leads to neurotic stressful worry. Simply put, emotion is blindly irrational and readily stimulates the body and mind to respond as if being chased by lions.
The beauty of focusing on the one constant problem is that no matter how much you toil you’ll always have room for improvement. That gives the worry gene something into which to sink its teeth.
(2) I consider the “pray” that Christ spoke about as being synonymous to Right Thought and Right State of Peaceful Mind, all of which rest upon Right Comprehension and Right Resolution.