“Many people fantasize about going off to a cave somewhere, far away from “the world,” where they imagine they will find peace of mind and live in some state of bliss. But the truth is that the cause of our unhappiness lies within our own hearts, so no matter where we go, we take it with us. That’s the bad news, but it’s also the good news.”
– Krishna Das
It took several readings of this passage to fully comprehend what Krishna Das is saying. As someone who has occasionally (often) threatened to run away–to the mountains, a cave, a monastery–or just away, anywhere, I get the seduction of being “far away from the world.” As Wordsworth so eloquently wrote, “The world is too much with us.” Who among us has not felt the very same at least once in their lives? The world is too much with us. I feel it daily. I think we lead dizzyingly busy lives filled to the top with too much to do, too much to be, and too little time to do it all in. I still long for a simple life that includes peace and bliss. However, I no longer fantasize about running away. Because, here’s the thing I’ve learned about running away somewhere to find peace of mind and states of bliss: When we run away, we take us, with us. And the thing that is standing in our way of being happy, peaceful, and blissful is, well, us. We are our own worst enemies. So, what can we do? We learn to stay. We learn to make unconditional friends with ourselves. We learn to accept ourselves as the gloriously imperfectly-perfect mess that we are. It’s not the destination of some cave that gives us inner peace, it’s traveling the path before us, step-by-step, with intention, awareness, and kindness. Oh, and that kindness applies foremost to us, as we learn to be kind, patient, and compassionate with ourselves. Staying on the path is the work, but it’s also the reward. The reward is inner peace and occasional states of bliss. And true, genuine happiness. Be sure you take the time to make good friends with the only person who will always walk the path with you: YOU. But, if the cave still seems appealing, remember this: You can run, but you can’t hide. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Ah, this messy work of being human.
Author’s Photos: The Cave and The Path Autumn 2015