Remember Smokey Bear? I clearly remember hearing his voice as a kid, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” It didn’t mean much to me. Still doesn’t. I didn’t grow up in an outdoor family. We were homebodies. Camping? What’s camping? The same is true today, but I’m sure if I ever find myself in the forest, his voice will ring in my ears, and I will be on my best behavior to prevent a wild fire.
Why? Because wildfires are bad! As we speak, my state of California is going through fiery hell, with close to 4 million acres ravished by the flames of over 7,000 fires. It’s our largest fire emergency in state history, and it sucks. Destruction sucks. Death sucks. Suffering… sucks!
Granted, the Buddha does teach us how to handle, and even embrace suffering, how to dance with the grim reaper, but that is for natural suffering, the suffering we can’t prevent. He also taught us how to avoid unnecessary suffering.
Natural suffering is this: Shit happens. We are all going to experience sickness, old age, death, weakness, failure and the rest. Just accept the facts now. If you don’t, you are an idiot. I say that with a hug and a kiss, but you should know. Don’t shoot the messenger.
Unnatural, or unnecessary suffering, is the pain we experience when we don’t handle our natural suffering in a healthy, mature way. This pain can cause us to create even more suffering in the world, like a flying spark causing more flames. The adage is true, hurt people hurt people.
I’m glad some agency came up with the Smokey Bear campaign. I’m sure much devastation has been avoided because of such a simple concept. I only wish our children would grow up hearing Smokey Bear tell them, “Only you can prevent unnecessary suffering in the world, in your life, in your heart.”
It’s true. The only one to blame for much of our internal pain and dis-ease, is ourselves. What other people do, I have no control over. Whatever cards life deals me, I have no say, but what I do with what I get, that is totally up to me. “An enlightened” person, isn’t someone who doesn’t make lemonade with lemons, but someone who makes gold out of vomit. They are a magician in that way. You can be that way too. You can be totally in control of what you say and what you do.
Let these words be your wake-up call. Take your enlightenment seriously. I don’t mean too seriously, of course, that’s a whole other problem some deal with. You don’t have to shave your head, quit your job, and stress out trying to wake up to your Zen self. Please, please, don’t anything like that!
Start with a book, a podcast, an online video. Talk to a friend who might be into this stuff. Make it fun. Don’t do it all day. Just go with the flow. If there is no flow, then do little things here and there, but the flow will come, trust me.
You must find the perfect balance of trying, but not trying too hard; doing, but not doing too much.
Enlightenment is real. Awakening is real. You don’t have to become a space cadet either, you know, out of touch with regular life and normal people, because you’re so “spiritual.” Honestly, screw those people. Sorry. I’m over it. Screw the religious task masters with their constricting rules as well. Fuck ‘em all! (I kid. Relax.)
Define your Spirituality
Be yourself. Live your life, as it is, but just add the ingredient of Buddhism, or something similar like Christian mysticism or Taoism to your life, and it will be the secret sauce that makes the meal of your existence a lot tastier and more satisfying than it is now.
Don’t wait for a midlife crisis or your own wildfire to take fire prevention seriously. You can be free of disturbing emotions, disturbing actions, and a disturbing life, but I can’t do it for you… Only YOU can prevent a disturbed life.
Bio: Jesse is a Spiritual Director under the moniker Humans Are Divine. He offers pay-what-you-can (seriously, don’t be shy) spiritual coaching for every day, regular people. He avoids the extremes of rule-driven conservatism and out-of-touch, weird liberalism. He is an apophatic Buddhist who can help you be free of the internal dis-eases that poison your closeness and relationship with the world and the people in your life, including yourself. Find out more at, http://www.humansaredivine.blog