Plum Village, France. July 24, 2014: I'm not interested in the question: "Is there a God?" I'm not interested in whether there's a divine plan or cosmic purpose underpinning the universe or my life. And I'm not interested in any path or practice that demands my belief in the supernatural realm.
Once upon a time I was interested in all these things. Passionately interested! But, happily, not any more.
I'm not interested in systematised religion or codified spirituality.
I'm not interested in being on God's winning team, or anyone else's. I'm not interested in the trophy of absolute truth - spiritual or secular.
I'm not interested in salvation, eternal life or going to Heaven. I'm not interested in universal consciousness, karma or the quest to escape some purported cycle of birth and death. I'm not interested in any form of self identity that transcends my earthly, mortal humanness.
I'm not interested in worldviews, metaphysical frameworks, philosophies, ideologies, scientific paradigms or religious doctrines claiming to resolve all the conundrums of life or unravel all the mysteries of existence.
I'm not interested in divine revelation, prophesy, inspired utterance, or any insight or teaching which couldn't, in principle, be discovered by any ordinary person using their normal human faculties.
I'm not interested in enlightenment. I'm not interested in becoming self realised, God-realised or fully evolved. I'm not interested in arcane powers or mystical experiences, perpetual bliss or the mastery of advanced meditative practices.
But here's the irony, here's the laugh:
Right now, as I write, I'm on retreat in Plum Village, France. This is the acclaimed Buddhist practice centre established by the revered and much-loved Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh. It's the prized destination for thousands of pilgrims each summer. I've just flown half way round the world to join them.
Yet, to be truthful, I'm not all that interested in Buddhism either.
Still, something very interesting is going on here, something that reaches well beyond the irony, something profound and liberating and delightful.
Here in Plum Village I've been discovering with fresh clarity what truly interests me. I've been greatly inspired by the deep, unpretentious wisdom articulated here by the monks and my fellow pilgrims.
Sharing even briefly in the life and love of this community is helping me recognise and articulate my own deepest interest with simple clarity and conviction:
I am interested in living a happy, decent, peaceful life and then, at the end of it, dying a happy, dignified, peaceful death.
In my daily life, this translates into some guidelines and simple practical commitments which I happily make to myself, to others and to life:
- I commit to being as fully alive, present and authentic in each moment as I can be
- I commit to bringing as much kindness, compassion and gratitude as I can to each situation I find myself in and to each person I meet.
- I commit to watering and nurturing, at every opportunity, the seeds of beauty and love in myself and in those whose lives I touch.
- I commit to honestly watching and earnestly re-shaping any personal attitudes and practices that give rise to suffering in myself, in others or in the world.
- I commit to living as enthusiastically as I can, engaging with life to the fullest extent of my personal talents and capabilities.
- And finally, I commit to taking diligent and loving care of myself, for my own sake and for the sake of others who need my love and care.
This is more than enough for me - an ordinary human life lived with simple honesty, good intention, compassion and gratitude.
Beyond this, I'm not interested.
Michael Done is a poet, writer, teacher, musician and entrepreneur who lives in Perth Western Australia