‘Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?’ ~ Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
There is no afterlife, no reincarnation, no resurrection, no heaven or hell. This brief interlude called ‘life’, this delicate bridge between birth and death, is the one chance we have to express ourselves as a unique manifestation of that which is never born and never dies.
So, in response to Mary Oliver’s classic poem, the question we might ask ourselves instead is where is this ‘you’ that can make a plan in the first place to do something with its ‘one wild and precious life’?
What do we find when we look for this ‘you’?
We find a body-mind made up of a cluster of random and fleeting thoughts, images, emotions, sensations, and the ever-changing perceptions of the world through the five senses. Not one concrete or lasting quality to invest our identity in.
So the ‘you’ that claims to make and carry out plans has no real substance. It can’t be found except in the transitory expressions of the body-mind. This being the case, we can correctly conclude that there is no actual doer – there is no one to make and follow through with a plan.
If we say yes, I am the doer, I am in charge of my life, it would be like the wave saying, ‘I am in charge of the ocean. I am in charge of how the ocean behaves.’ Experience shows that the ocean dictates the wave’s behavior, as the wave is born of the ocean – without the ocean, no wave.
If the ocean is in charge of the wave’s identity and destiny, what is you’s counterpart? What is in charge of you’s identity and destiny? The wave is made of the ocean. The ‘you’ or ‘I’ is made of?
A better question we might ask ourselves is who or what is doing the looking in the first place?
Do we really think that we are in control? By the haphazard and sometimes despairing way in which many people lead their lives, we obviously know deep down, intuitively, that we are not in control, but we think that if we put up a good front, act like we know what we’re doing, maybe someone will believe us. Cult leaders know this to be true.
Many of us spend our lifetime identifying with a false sense of self, a personal I that when looked for can’t be found. Yes, there is evidence of a separate self, but only in fragments of passing thoughts, images, feelings, and sensations. The only thing that the I can say for sure is I am. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is a key.
Will you spend your precious life clinging to and defending an illusory separate self, a body-mind made up of a collection of conditioned thoughts and emotions?
Will you try to impose your will on others because you only feel good if others bend to your ideas or even crumble under your hardnosed scrutiny?
Will you withdraw into your insecurities, inadequacies, and failures, living a lonely life distanced from friends and family?
Or will you use this one and only chance to discover your true identity and express the peace, love, and happiness inherent in the gift of simply being? Of simply saying, knowing, ‘I am’?
You can look closely at the personal ‘you’ made up of passing thoughts, sensations, and perceptions, and discover that whoever or whatever is doing the looking, observing the coming and going of all things, reading the words on this screen, is actually the foundation, the source of all appearances. The ever-present background of all experience.
Or you can be buried forever under the ponderous weight of the illusory, temporary, so-called individual self.
So what is the plan?