All around me I see people exchanging the precious time they have, the gift of being awake and alive upon this earth, for the thing we call “security”. Have they made a good bargain? I don’t think so. In fact, it seems to me that the common belief in security debilitates, even destroys, a great many lives that could otherwise be spent upon a deep relationship with Life and the profound opportunities it offers.
All my life “security” has been held up to me as one of the highest goods, and supremely worth striving for. I bought it at first, but then, once I reached an age and a level of experience that provided the means to question what I had been taught, I began to wonder about the actuality of this thing that holds such value for people. What is it, really? The more I questioned the more I doubted, and the more radical the choices were I began to make. As I left college (I managed to endure until graduation, but only barely) I abandoned the life that was prescribed to me by my parents and by society. I decided to travel instead of securing a respectable job—and I traveled in a humble, solitary way that few could understand. A few months turned into a few years, and it began to look as if I would never get my act together and conform. “This is the time when you build your career,” people told me. “If you keep going like this you’re going to lose your chance.” I kept going anyway, partly because of the sweet joy I found in exploring life in my own unique way, but more because of my dread of what they offered me. They asked me to make, from my point of view, an appalling sacrifice: to trade the freedom I enjoyed to explore my inward nature through outward things, uninhibited and without any expectations, for a slave-like devotion to the procurement of money and status—things I cared nothing about. Things only got worse when I entered the monastery, and when that adventure, too, extended from months to years. People could not understand how I could make that choice, how I could relinquish the hope of security, when they had, most of them, spent their entire lives in pursuit of it. They advised me to work for money instead. The thing is, those who offered me this advice were poor representatives: I could see that they were unhappy, that their security had not settled them with peace of mind or fulfillment, and I balked at a choice they could not prove through their own lives.
I left the monastery roughly two and a half years ago, after having spent my early manhood and more in silence and without worldly ambition. People told me that it wasn’t too late: that if I worked hard and focused on the goal I could still acquire this much-lauded thing called “security”. I did in fact consider it. Things look a lot different at almost-thirty than almost-fifty. At the monastery I acquired the practice of awareness; I learned how to look inward and dismantle the processes of conditioned mind; I learned how to be free of of the self-judgment that is a part of our socialization, and to truly love myself—but I have no marketable skills. I can make money as a laborer, and not much more. I experienced the pull people feel towards the power to command good money, and I understand the effort people make to have it. It is not a grim prospect for all, of course, to spend large portions of their lives getting their hands on the means to make an easy living: some people truly love what they do, and even feel called to it, but I’m afraid that’s not the case for most. In my case, I feel, it would be a tragedy. My work in this life is to end suffering. I’m not opposed to making money as a result of my work—that would be lovely, in fact—but the money cannot be the end.
It seems that I am at a choice-point. It may in fact be already too late to procure “security”; if not, that point is not far away. If I’m going to give up the path of a seeker I need to do it now. And yet, I’m prepared to bet that the reward of the common way would not complete the life I’ve led so far, and that there’s another one that would. The other is to continue, trusting in the Guidance that, it seems to me, has steered me and my choices thus far. The stakes are high, without a doubt: I’m wagering the rest of my life on the conviction that “security” is unreal, and this is scary to a part of me. The thing is, I just don’t believe in it. What makes me feel this way? What evidence do I have that it’s not real? More about that in the next blog.