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The Devil in Chains

What is Separation? What does it mean to be an “individual”? What is the type of life people live when they’re so closed up in their own life situations? A life that is too wrapped up within the borders of one’s existence is not a life at all but slavery to the noise inside.

I have practiced Buddhism for about 3 years so far. Towards the beginning, I practiced its disciplines intensely. I have experienced many beautiful things. In the process though, I suffered huge amounts of stress that rolled over my being, and I constantly found myself numb.

I struggled terribly with almost everything in life, being the worst version I can ever be. As I pushed onward, I accomplished one of the main objectives of my practice, which is to attain Nirvana, or liberation from the constant cycle of pain and suffering.

Unfortunately, in attaining such an accomplishment, I started to revert back to square one, back to the person I was before--too egocentric and unsatisfied with the life I was living.

I think this might have stemmed from the need to always reach for better circumstances in my life. As a part of the practice, I needed to put constant effort into committing to strict and disciplinary actions that would lead to desired outcomes. I realized now that it has left traces in my mind for this type of behavior to rise again: the need to resist life.

As the weeks went by, I started to realize how bad this feeling was. After experiencing peace sweeter than honey, everything started to feel like it lost its flavor. I started to always hate everything and, fascinating enough, everything hated me. One of the biggest examples I can think of is when I used to share a room with a sibling that wanted to have absolute control over the room.

It made me want to hate life even more, putting me in a vicious cycle of constant anger and envy. I had to realize that control over my life was slipping too fast from my grasp, as everything in it started to work against me. Why? Why is that so?

Enough was enough. I had to take control again. “But how?” I observed. Do I really want to go back to the old days, when I would push my way towards getting what I want? There had to be a smarter way to get what I want without barely forcing myself to get it.

This was my “Koan.” Koan, translated from the Japanese Soto Zen lineage of Buddhism to English, means “meditation problem.” I had to take this question deeply into contemplative practice; How can I take control of my life again? I spent weeks with the question in mind, hoping I can find the answer in the deepest trenches of my heart only to discover how empty it was.

I reached a dead end with this so I gave up. It was too hard for me to continue. I simply could not go on anymore. I have reached my wit’s end with this.

On a cloudy August night, I came out to my backyard with my meditation cushion, a yoga mat, and a blanket. I set it all up on the floor just right so the motion sensor lights didn’t turn on. In the cotton-filled night sky, with the moon shining on me and the crickets chanting to Nature’s rhyme, I wrapped the blanket on me and sat.

I didn’t know what I was going to do. I sat down to stop this game I was playing and simply surrendered. I stopped everything I was doing inside me, all the strings I would pull. I stopped.

It was an unusually dark and quiet night that day, even with all the streetlights and car noises that would pass in an everyday Paterson night. I sat in that stillness, allowing it to completely possess me.

I reached a point in that mediation session where it felt like the entire universe fits in my body as I felt complete oneness with everything. I became that stillness as I entangled myself with the very foundation of the universe. I felt empty. There was no Dixon Rexach Toro. My sense of self with all its problems dissipated into nothingness. My issues were a lie after all.

I awakened from the meditation only to find myself with the most profound bliss I've ever felt; a bliss that radiated into the external world making all things work for me rather than against me.

Once I realized this, I understood now that I had much greater power over everything that makes up my being. I had control over my mind, my “self”, my body, my actions, my thoughts or feelings, over everything. Not in the way that I force myself to get what I want but in the way that allows what I want to chase after me. The pain-striving, grief-stricken, ill-natured ego is under control now.

On that mystical night I had, I held on to the deepest insight that still exists within me to this day, one that brings me to further penetrates my understanding of all that life brings to me: life is much more than little old “me”.

You and all your problems are nothing compared to the vastness and aliveness that exists in the universe. Just stop and let it all go. It might not even matter. In this way, no matter what is going on in your life, you’ll stand your ground against all obstacles that come your way. You will always have power over everything – you will always be in control.

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