Personal Growth is Indirect

Note: “Action” in this post means all mental and physical movements, including thoughts, feelings, etc.

We all live with the view, the belief, that we’re the origin of our actions.

When we do something, we feel like we’re the doer, that we’re the cause. Buddhadharma, and modern psychology, show that this is actually back-asswards. We’re not the doer, we’re the done; we’re not the cause of our actions, we’re the effect of our actions. The tail wags the dog.

Each movement of the mind and body creates us, we arise from that movement. As the mind and body change, we change. When they drift away, we drift away. The things we take as our possessions, as mine, actually own us.

We’re like a candle flame that says, “This is my wax, my wick, my air, and my space.” With a view like that, it’s almost impossible to make beneficial changes, to grow, because then we think that just wanting to be happy is all it takes to be happy. We think that if we can make the dream real enough, that it’ll actually be real.

Like a candle flame that says, “I’m going to grow brighter,” when a breeze is rustling through the room, and the wick and wax are withering.

Growing up, waking up, being free from turmoil means closing the window so that the candle isn’t flickering anymore. It means adding more wax to the stick, or even putting it in a lamp with a little oil.

If we want to change who we are, we have to change the way we move. We can easily see all of this in action when it comes to the body. If we want to be physically fit, we have to do things that make us so and avoid doing things that don’t. The mind is the same way.

It’s also easy to see that our bodies aren’t our bodies: we inherited them from our ancestors, and we keep them alive by depending on food, water, and shelter. Our minds aren’t our minds either. We inherit our minds from our bodies, and the impression of being a being arises when both mind and body are present and accounted for.

What we are is a blurb, summary, or snapshot of everything that composes us. The problem is that we take that summary to be the whole novel, or we think that the novel depends on the summary.

This mix-up allows us to take everything personally and blow things out of proportion. And we want to change, we want things to be better, but they just seem to get worse because we’re unable to do anything to direct the current of cause and effect.

That’s why we have the Noble Eightfold Path. It allows us to change ourselves for the better by changing the things that give birth to us from moment to moment. If we change the things we think, do, and desire, then we’re gonna change the way we feel. And when the Path becomes a habit in itself, we’ve changed the way we are from someone who stands opposed to the facts of life, to someone who lives in harmony with them.







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