What happens when we die? This is one of life's most puzzling questions, but is our preoccupation with death any different from our preoccupation with what's for dinner or our dentist appointment next week? It's a preoccupation with something other than where life is happening.
We all want to maintain control over our lives: our relationships, our work, our health, even our moods. We want to know where we're going and what's going to happen when we get there. Letting going of knowing is hard because we think that if we don't know where we¿re going, we won't get there.
The 21st century is a critical time for our environment. Global warming, pollution, deforestation: the problems are large, and it's easy to feel helpless. Yet it's important not to get lost in despair; we can be serious about environmental problems and still be joyful. This ability is crucial not only for dealing with the environment, but also with spiritual practice.
Pick up a newspaper or turn on the television, and you're bound to see suffering. And it's not just on the news; we struggle with great and small issues all the time, as do our families and friends. How do we respond to the cries of the world? There's so much suffering that it often seems easier to retreat into distance and cold-heartedness, but each of us is born with the ability to give.
It's very difficult to experience life directly. Our conditioning and ordinary way of perceiving often creates a haze that prevents accurate perception. One of the most painful aspects of this fog is our feeling of separation; as a result of this misapprehension we follow after things and lose ourselves. The truth is that our inherent nature is one of unity.
Conflict exists not only between nations and political parties; it's also battling with our neighbor, bickering with the person in the next cubicle, struggling with our spouse. Whatever the size of the conflict, it's clear that violence never solves conflict. So how can we end conflict?
Why is it so difficult to study? It's a deep aspect of human nature, but most of us are educated to simply learn facts and repeat them. We can take responsibility for our learning by engaging in solitary sessions where we probe and question, cultivating a mind of inquiry.
One of the main reasons people embark on the spiritual path is to identify what's causing their pain. Oddly enough, when we try to find our pain we often can't put our finger on it, and this is because our pain comes from an idea.