Getting the Point Yet Missing the Mark
Something seems to be missing. There seems to be a party happening elsewhere, wherever we’re not. Somewhere else someone else is happier, something better has to be going on. Just not here. It seems to be boring here, right here.
The mind is always on the move. In essence it is motion. It is an ever-flowing progressive attempt to grasp the wind. To understand, acquire and control. It is an endless process of setting and achieving goals. You might imagine the life span of a mind as a long and extensive to-do list. As soon as one goal is completed, the next one immediately appears. Grander and grander goals, further, more complicated and impossible to reach are competing for higher priority.
There is hardly a gap between the goal and the attainment. They are linked as night and day. Running after each other in desperation. It is almost impossible to tell them apart. Imagine a race, where the point is to reach a certain line, the finish line. It is marked with flags and ribbons. As you begin running, you know exactly where that finish line is. Without that crucial piece of information you are bound to lose.
In essence, you need the finish line in order to compete. Without clear guidelines of beginning and end, with start and finish, the sense of winning the competition cannot be fulfilled. You see, without having your predetermined goals, of what it means to “win” the game of life, your can’t ever succeed or feel a sense of accomplishment. How can you achieve or attain something that you already have? That you have been all along?
The mind, being a product of duality, knows nothing but winning or losing, on or off, in or out. I have or I don’t. Therefore, in the process of minding it’s own behavior, the mind has to be in a constant state of seeking. Of looking towards anything which isn’t present in this moment. If you walk into a familiar room, which for years was covered by this intricate and beautiful Persian rug, if one day someone takes the rug away, what you’ll say is “Where’s the rug?” what your mind notices it the absence of the rug, it won’t notice the presence of the floor. We are trained to focus on that which is not and seek after that which is.
However, life seems to be operating in a completely different manner. Life occurs. It is not planned. It is organic, ever-evolving; it flows in a cyclical fashion. It is not linear and is not bound to time. Nature, life, existence happens now. The rain never drops tomorrow, nor does the wind blow yesterday. The seasons follow one another, yet summer does not expect fall, it just makes way. Fall, in turn, awaits its turn.
When the two, the mind and nature meet, conflict ensues. A linear process attempting to describe, contain and control a force of absolute casualness. Randomness so profound that it is an experience of pure harmony, following a divine plan. A master design which is perfectly imperfect. Flawless in its infinite flaws. Holding no promise for a better tomorrow, or a false sense of accomplishment as the sun sets once again into the vastness of the ocean.
In its attempt to get to the point of all things, to reach its desired goal, the mind might get the point but absolutely miss the mark. You don’t know yourself, because you never can. The endless endeavor to reach towards where you are not is bound to fail. Since you can’t fail at failing, you will only succeed when you let go of any effort to find what cannot be found. To reach that which cannot be reached. Not because it is far away or complex, but because you are already there. There’s nowhere to go and nothing to reach.
“The Upanishads say: if you think you understand Brahman you do not understand and have yet to be instructed further. If you know that you do not understand then you truly understand. For the Brahman is unknown to those who know it and known to those who know it not.” says mystical jazz poet Alan Watts.
Only losers win in this game. When you let go of your endless competitions and comparisons, let go of your feeble attempt at getting the point there is a chance, a tiny chance that you won’t miss the mark.
Many years ago, a novice archer wanted to perfect his skill and was set in his determination to find the best and most renowned master archer to apprentice with. For years he has traveled from one town to the next, one village after another. Picking up bits of wisdom here and there, perfecting his aim, improving his draw. One day, as he approached a remote village within the high mountains he found arrows fixed in perfect and absolute bullseye formation. But the targets were lodged in truly impossible locations. Between the branches of the tallest tree, behind a fallen log, under and in between large boulders of rock. ‘I have never seen an equal to this skill’ thought the archer. ‘The archer who can aim and hit these targets is the most skilled of all’.
With a deeper sense of resolve he picked up his pace marching into the village. ‘Who is this incredible master?’ he proclaimed, ‘where can he be found?’ As he approached a group of children and posed his questions he was confronted by loud laughter. ‘Incredible master?! Ha ha, he is the town’s fool. Don’t waste a moment and walk away.’
‘They must be wrong.’ he thought. ‘The master is probably so humble that he takes the guise of a fool; tricking those around him in his humility.’
‘Please show me the way, I want to meet this fool’.
And so it was. He was lead to the outskirts of the village, and with further laughter was directed to a small unmarked and tiny hut.
The closer he approached the master’s hut; more and more impossible targets would appear all around. Arrow after arrow, bullseye after bullseye, never a miss, nothing but perfection.
As he reached the hut, his heart was trembling. His arms shaking; ‘I have finally found my master. The grandest of all archers, am I ready? Will he take me under his wings?’
As he knocked on the door, a loud rumbling sound came from within the hut. ‘Who dares disturb my slumber?’ the master opened the door in haste.
‘I am so sorry, I am your humble disciple and here to serve you and learn.’
‘Serve me?’ said the master.
‘And why would you want that?’ he proclaimed and laughed loudly.
‘Teach me oh master; teach me the secrets to your skill. Teach me how to hit the mark.”
‘And how in the world do I do that?’ the master asked, somewhat in amazement with this peculiar visit.
“Well… it might take years. At first you will give me many tasks and tests. You would ask me to cut wood and carry water. Clean your abode and serve for your comfort.”
‘Are you sure? How would that be a teaching for you to hit the mark?’ he asked again.
“Well… after years of mindful practice, you’d pick up your bow and share of your secrets. Then, only then, my mind would be ready to receive your transmission.” Said our archer with great confidence.
Perplexed and confused, the master agreed.
The years have passed and the master was served. The house cleaned, the wood cut and the water carried. The day has come.
‘Do you think you are ready?’ Asked the master.
“I am!” replied the archer.
“Please share of your secrets, how do you achieve these perfect marks? How do you aim to perfection and how do you hit these impossible targets.”
‘It is simple my friend’. ‘First you draw your bow and release your arrow. Where ever it lands, there, oh friend, there, right there – you draw the target.’