In Buddhism, samsara is the cycle of reincarnation that perpetuates suffering. It’s the endless rebirth of everyone back into an imperfect world. Can you think of a greater pain than the inability to escape suffering?
After moving in yesterday, a cycle became obvious to me; it’s the alteration between fear and comfort. When we find a place, we establish a ground to it. We find comfort in knowing something to be true. When we are fearful of the unknown, we reach out and try to find something to grab onto.
For me, exploring where I live was that ground. I had to know exactly where I was and my surroundings before I could become comfortable. When I got utterly lost yesterday, I felt completely broken inside. How could I have applied being physically lost with being mentally lost? All that fear vanished once I established where I was. Thus shifting the cycle from fear to comfort again.
Another ground could be routine; doing something regularly is easier than learning to do something new. When we grapple to this ground, we suffer because of our dependency on regularity.
When we stop searching for ground and realize that there is no true permanent ground, we are liberated from the burden of groundlessness.
This cycle of comfort and fear stops creating suffering. The cycle does not end because the body will never stop fearing the unknown. However, you will no longer suffer from it.
For example, you may hear something rustling in a dark room and your body will immediately put your arm-hairs on end. You cannot control this initial reaction. Your body will automatically react to the situation but your mind will respond different. It will say “oh, my dog must have woken up!”. Thus, the suffering is alleviated.
When we train ourselves to accept the unknown, we remove ourselves from the mental suffering of attachment. We no longer have to find that pattern or solve that problem. We can live without knowing and without needing consistency. So when we see something new, we respond as we would anything else in life. With openness and genuine curiosity. Without the negative emotions incurred by needing a solution or a ground to hold on to.
For me, this means going out each day into the newness of living in Charleston. It means embracing not knowing what exactly is going to happen and being okay with that. It means not desiring having the perfect understanding. That understanding is ground for me.
By removing this ground, I remove the unnecessary mental anxiety I put myself through. We all run in circles – it’s just a part of life. By removing ourselves mentally from these cycles, we remove suffering. The truth is, we run in circles because we don’t like the unknown. We run in circles because it’s easier than running somewhere new. It’s easier than trying to figure something else out.
Instead of continuing to run in circles, I encourage you to embrace the unknown and go off somewhere new. I know that the unknown has nothing you can grapple on to; it is impermanent and ever changing. When you reach out into the unknown, you don’t know where you will end up. Perhaps that is the point though. We can never travel far if we only stay with what is known.