Friday, May 23, 2014

It's all good, isn't it?

From Seneca's second letter:

"Judging from what you tell me and from what I hear, I feel that you show great promise. You do not tear from place to place and unsettle yourself with one move after another. Restlessness of that sort is symptomatic of a sick mind. Nothing, to my way of thinking, is better proof of a well ordered mind than a man's ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company."

Reminds me of the old psychiatrist's joke. The psychiatrist says to his patient, "Why don't you take yourself out to dinner alone and see how you enjoy the company?"

I was reading Osho the other day and he was describing the difference between pleasure, happiness, joy, and bliss. We all seek pleasure as all animals do. The meaning of life the Dali Lama says is happiness. The next question is the most important and that is, "What will make me happy?" It's not a bad life if we know how to live it, and if we figure that out we will experience joy which is best described I think as an abiding sense of contentment. When we connect with the flow of the universe we experience bliss which is rare.

I think what Seneca may be pointing to is the fact that seeking pleasure and happiness constantly does not give us joy and certainly not bliss. For joy and bliss there must be a letting go of the pursuit of pleasure and even happiness because we know from experience that all things are impermanent as the Buddhists have taught us. So can we just sit with our pleasures as well as our pain and suffering? Can we just face and observe our own joys and sorrows, pleasures and pain, and say with equanimity "It's all good!"

And what does Unitarianism Universalism have to teach us about being comfortable in our own skin, about being content, about giving up the grasping and greed for material and physical pleasures? It teaches us that we are just a small part of the interdependent web of existence and that our happiness comes from respecting that interdependent web. We need to work towards balance, to rectify the imbalance, and to realize that sooner or later, one way or another, the universe is evolving exactly as it should. This is the basis of our universalist faith, that it all comes out in the wash, that everything, even what we call "bad", serves a purpose even if we don't understand it at the time.


  1. How many UUs actually practice what you are preaching - the search for equanimity? I have never heard a sermon preached on this. It sounds like Stoic philosophy to me. Having said this, I think that UUs are a joyful people and they are comfortable that their doubts and skepticism about religious doctrines are accepted as appropriate and "normal". It is the wonderful thing about Unitarian Universalism that they encourage a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Where they may miss is in thinking that the "answers" are out there instead of within themselves.

  2. Perhaps, the restlessness that Seneca is referring to, in our contemporary society, is the internet addiction and the agitation people experience when they hear or feel the vibration and a alerted to the fact that a text or an email has just come in. There is a little spike in adrenaline, the heart rate goes up a bit, our breathing becomes quicker, our blood pressure goes up, and we are distracted from whatever is right there in front of us. So much for smelling the roses and being mindful.

  3. Thank you. Excellent post. UU values the inherent worth of every person. It is hard to practice and requires a very big and forgiving heart. However when we can be forgiving it brings much peace.