Where's the Should?

"He who expects nothing enjoys everything," said St. Francis of Assisi.

When the world doesn't meet our expectations, is the problem in the world or the mind? Our mind imposes expectations on the present moment from the storehouse of past impressions. We pick the best of the past and project it as "hope." When experience conforms to our hope, we call it "good." When it doesn't, we call it "bad." Granting authority to the past, we live in a constant conflict between the way the world is and the way we remember it. This is suffering: the conflict between the present and the past, between what Is and what Should be.

Suffering is irresponsible: a failure to respond. Suffering happens when we get so stuck in how it should be that we can't respond to how it is. Pain, of course, is inevitable. But suffering is a choice: a choice to prefer the past.

When we drop our expectations, what happens? We eliminate suffering before it arises. We relieve the tension between past and present. We become instantly alert, energetic, and sensible. We acquire response-ability for the Now.

Do I have enough courage to renounce the authority of the past, with its Should?

Have you ever wondered where Should comes from? I may feel that it comes from inside, but how did it get there? Fear of someone outside drove that Should deep within me, until I thought it must be my own voice and my guide. But the true guide, deeper than thinking, at the very source of mind, is not the voice of Should but the voice of silence. There is no Should in silence.

The silence of awareness is there before a single word arises. True guidance is voiceless. I know that I make the right decision, not because I hear a voice saying "thou shalt" or "thou shalt not," but because I feel a centering, a release of tension in the heart, the warmth of inward home-coming.

Real renunciation means dropping the Should, so that we may live in what St. Francis called "perfect joy." Renunciation isn't wearing a robe or living in a cave, but opening our hearts to the naked miraculous terrible ecstatic world that Is, just as it Is, without any expectations, without any ground to stand on but Now.

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