The pressures are complete and perfect, repetitive and daily. It is hard to believe anyone even stands, much less functions, under such a weight. The first of these pressures is the pressure of disappointment. Unnamed at first, the inquiring mind can turn backwards from the phenomena of his disappointment to ask himself, what would it be to be satisfied? By allowing the image of fulfillment to rise to the mind, the aspirant can identify, over time and with care, what he would deem the real life. Returning from this image to his present condition, he is smacked in the face by the features of the life he actually lives. Disappointed in himself and those around him, he carries on pushed by the regular and unrelenting advance of time.
Time is the second pressure. It is worrying even for the healthy and young that time slows for no man. Your period here on earth is brief. Each decision you make shapes your life and even if objective losses can be recouped your time never can. The culmination of this pressure is death. Wearily turning your head away from this specter come unbidden to your mind, you gain relief only by plunging yourself into activity or focusing on that which seems transcendent to you-your children, your work, your connections with others.
Daily you are told that you are not immortal. The dismissive gesture of a clerk or the cool reception you feel when you arrive at a gathering, the gift you receive that bears no resemblance to your desires, all theses daily occurrences declare your finitude to you. Now, with the pressures of the hundred impossibles on your shoulders, you have a chance. Grab the question by the neck like a terrier grabs a rat. Don’t let go until it yields! Your outrage, your anger, your belief that this can’t be all there is is true! You just don’t know how it isn’t true. You don’t know how you can be what you know in your heart that you truly are.
Instead, fainting at the sight of the terrors of self-inquiry, you plunge yourself into busyness. You simply can’t take on such an undertaking. Not today, not now when the practical matters require your attention and you must trudge on to complete this or that project. You justify your resistance by the very mundaneness of your occupations. The bills due and the meal to prepare take precedence over your attainment of freedom. After all, you are a responsible person and you must keep your nose to the grindstone.
Outside the paltry satisfactions of your day the tempest rages, there for you to step into at any moment. Find out, find out how this terrible state of affairs can keep going. How is it that you, you who know in your heart of hearts that you are a freedom can instead step daily into the drudgery of a tamed soul? By thrusting yourself into distractions and tiny slivers of satisfaction-a compliment, a box that fits just so, or even some emotional drama that seems convincing only to fade later into the nether lands of dream-all of this lets a veil lower over your eyes to hide from you the depthless existential questions that could, just maybe with your perseverance, shine your path home.
“What of my practical affairs?” you plead in an increasingly tiny voice. Yes, yes those are real too, I will grant you. This body and soul must be kept in one piece for the duration. But surely, when you think honestly on the matter, don’t you have some time? Some time that may be devoted daily to your task, this task that you yourself are? There are moments at dawn of quiet and building light. There are moments in the car, with the radio off, moments standing at the sink washing the dishes from the meal that supports your body. Each of these moments doesn’t need to be abandoned.
Reflections come unbidden, too. You job is to not turn away from them. Don’t drown out that small voice in your soul that is shouting, “What about me, what about my freedom?” Take them back, these moments that you have in the corners of your day. Take them back until they shine, shine into your every activity. Now your daily work becomes your practice. See the question again, from a new standpoint. Live your question until your breath and your questioning mind are simultaneous. Who are you, really?