“What IS your thing?” This question was recently asked of my wife during a conversation with a good friend about some random social club activity. It was preceded by my wife saying, “That’s not my thing.” My wife’s friend is a wonderful person and she is generally busy. Most of the time she is busy doing something good: organizing a food program for underprivileged kids at the school, taking a mission trip to Haiti, attending exercise class and church groups. So, she was understandably puzzled by the appearance that my wife does not have a “thing.” The discussion led my wife to conclude, “I guess I don’t really have a thing.”
This incident had me wondering, what is this question really asking? It seems to me that most people want to know what the one thing is that makes you, you. What are you most passionate about? What is that one thing that makes you fulfilled? People have many “things.” Exercise, religion, an occupation, food, drugs, sports, children, alcohol, appearance, possessions, money, sex…the list could go on forever. Some “things” are good, some are bad, and some are both. In many cases, the purpose of each “thing” seems to be to get us to a place of mental stillness where we do not feel the need to get anywhere else – true peace, joy, fulfillment. But this intent is dysfunctional for many reasons.
First of all, “there” is never here. In the same way, needing, seeking and wanting are the antithesis of peace. It is impossible to have a still mind while in a state of wanting, seeking or needing. When peace is there (a place to get to), it is never here (the only place we ever are).
A “thing” is never enough. According to the egoic, thinking mind, if some is good, more is better. It always wants more. Losing weight to improve health and appearance is good. Having plenty of money and possessions is good. Religion is good. However, if a condition becomes a “thing,” we are then in danger of unconsciously subscribing to the “more is better” theory. Anorexia then becomes the most common cause of death among women ages 15-24. We end up with television shows about real housewives, hoarders and strange addictions. Groups like ISIS and Westboro Baptist Church arise. Of course these examples are extreme, but many of us are guilty of producing suffering, often in the form of a jaded spouse, a neglected child or financial hardship, because of a “thing.” I certainly am.
In this world of opposites, everything runs in cycles. Nothing can grow forever. All things are impermanent. Looks and athletic ability fade. Possessions and money are lost. Jobs come and go. Children grow up. There will be times when the “thing” isn’t there. Then what? We all consciously realize this, but a “thing” can lead to unobserved thoughts and behaviors that say the opposite.
So, is the answer that we should give up our “thing?” Possibly. How do we follow my wife’s example of being passionate, achieving and accomplishing without having a “thing?” Maybe what is needed is awareness: awareness of the ego’s incessant effort to make something “my thing;” awareness that a “thing” is at best providing false, temporary peace; awareness that expecting a “thing” to give something that it cannot give – true peace, true joy, true fulfillment – is dysfunctional. True peace and joy are uncaused. No “thing,” no effort, no condition gives rise to the Peace of God. All too often, having a “thing” obscures it.
Written by Dr. Jason Pittser