10 Aug On not minding what happens
via Oliver Burkeman
Eventually, in virtually every spiritual and religious tradition, you’ll encounter the same advice when it comes to time: that we’re better off confining our attentions to the present moment than struggling to manipulate what’s coming next. “Trying to control the future is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place,” cautions one of the founding texts of Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, in a warning echoed several centuries later by the Buddhist scholar Geshe Shawopa, who gruffly commanded his students: “Do not rule over imaginary kingdoms of endlessly proliferating possibilities.”
But the version of this thought that has always resonated the most for me comes from the modern-day spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti, who expressed it, in a characteristically direct manner, in a lecture delivered in California in the late 1970s. “Partway through this particular talk,” recalls the writer Jim Dreaver, who was in attendance, “Krishnamurti suddenly paused, leaned forward, and said, almost conspiratorially, ‘Do you want to know what my secret is?’ Almost as though we were one body, we sat up… I could see people all around me lean forward, their ears straining, their mouths slowly opening in hushed anticipation.” Then Krishnamurti “said in a soft, almost shy voice, ‘You see, I don’t mind what happens.’”
I don’t mind what happens. Perhaps these words need a little unpacking; I don’t think Krishnamurti means to say that we shouldn’t feel sorrow, compassion, or anger when bad things happen to ourselves or others, nor that we should give up on our efforts to prevent bad things from happening in the future. Rather, a life spent “not minding what happens” is one lived without the inner demand to know that the future will conform to your desires for it – and thus without having to be constantly on edge as you wait to discover whether or not things will unfold as expected.
None of that means we can’t act wisely in the present to reduce the chances of bad developments later on…
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