Conditions Will Arise: A tale of non-striving, a great teaching of the Buddha and a main tenet of mindfulness practice (by Jenn Cormier, February 2011)
Occasionally in life a phrase blows me over and shifts the reality of how I experience my life. ”Conditions Will Arise” was one of these rare phrases.
It shifted my existence to a more peaceful, faith-filled living where I truly began to trust that all things are connected and that everything unfolds in its right time.
The story begins like this. I have traveled to Thailand now three times to study Thai Massage, Meditation, and Yoga. I especially like going during the winter to get a dose of sunshine and tropical fruits. My Thai meditation teacher Ouiporn, has created a retreat center, International Women’s Partnership for Peace and Justice, around her mother’s home among the rice fields of Mae Rim. I love to sit in my favorite temple there – a small earthen building built by the hands of women from all over the world.
This particular visit I was attending a three-day silent retreat on the Eight Verses for Training the Mind. I was attending with one of my Yoga teachers and two friends. The four of us had traveled the 45 or so minute trek from the city of Chiang Mai to Mae Rim together in a Song Tao (a two benched pickup truck taxi). I had been to Ouiporn’s retreat center the winter before and I loved it so much I knew I wanted to return. This winter I emailed Ginger, the other woman who runs the center, asking if I could extend my stay after the Eight Verses Silent retreat. The response said that they’d love to have me stay – but some other time, because they would be preparing to travel internationally, so “not this time around.” I was a bit disappointed but made other plans for a place to stay post retreat.
During the retreat, Ouiporn approached me and asked, ”Are you the one that emailed asking to have an extended stay?” “Yes.” I said. ”OH!!” she said, “well, we are going to be traveling soon, but if you wanted to stay for a week or two I could show you where the market is and you’d have to make all your own food, but you are welcome to stay.” ”OH!” surprised, I told her I had already made other plans, but I could potentially stay for a night or two if that would be ok. ”Yes! fine, fine” she said. ”I’ll just have to figure some things out” I told her.
Since this was day two on a three-day silent retreat I had a day and a half of silence to ”figure some things out.” I’ve realized now, when I’m trying “to figure things out” it usually means ”to come up with some obstacles.”
The obstacles to accepting her kind offer were: 1) I wasn’t sure how Ginger felt about my staying on, since she originally sent me the email saying it was not the best time. 2) I didn’t know how I was going to get back since my three friends and I had our Song Tao driver picking us up an hour after the retreat ended. 3) I didn’t have any extra money for a return fare or for any other expense that might pop up.
So the retreat ended, and I lost track of many of my breaths during the final day by trying to “figure things out.” As my friends packed up their things and prepared to leave, I stood by the dining area anxiously hesitating. Ouiporn approached me and asked if I was going to stay. I shuffled my feet and said “Well, I don’t know yet.” ”When is your Song Tao coming?” she asked” “Soon!” I said, at 1:00 pm.” It was in 45 minutes.
”AHhhhh!!! she said, throwing her had across her face in a kind of “oh thats nothing!” gesture. ”Plenty of time!, not to worry, CONDITIONS WILL ARISE!” I stood there dumbstruck at how easy and confident she was, and the phrase was so clear: Conditions will arise.
First, Sara, my yoga teacher and friend with whom I was supposed to return to the city, walked by. I told her about Ouiporn’s offer for me to stay for two more days, but that I didn’t have any Bhat (thai dollars). I asked to borrow 1,000 Bhat and told her I could repay her at her gathering on Saturday. “Sure,” she said, and pulled a 1,000 bill from her pocket and handed it to me.
Next, Ginger walked up to me and said warmly, ”I made up the bed in our office building/guest house by the library. It’s all ready for you, and you are welcome to all the books and the computer.” “OH! thank you!” I said. She made it obvious that I was welcome.
Finally Ouiporn came over and asked me, ”What day did you want to go back to Chiang Mai?” “I need to be back for a gathering I agreed to be at on Saturday evening.” ”OH!!!” she said, ”I have to go into town to run some errands on Saturday, I can just drive you! – no problem!” ”Wow, Okay then. I’ll be staying! Thank you!”
Dumbfounded at how easy this was, I wrote on the cover of my journal that night ”Conditions Will Arise.” This became a mantra and a way of life for me. Figure out less ~ allow conditions to arise more. It takes less energy, and creates less irritation and anxiety to live like this. It is not a mantra allowing for inertia. It is simply a way to get out of my own way. To let the intangible forces around me to work as they need to, I have faith they will, and I have been supported in challenges time after time.
As I sit with my family, back in my hometown now, I remind myself of this wise phrase when I get impatient and frustrated with the speed or way my new life here is unfolding. I now remind myself, “one condition at a time,” and I can have faith, even in this cold snowy February, just as the flowers will soon bud and the sprouts will soon sprout, that conditions will most certainly arise. And in times of challenge, this gives me a little more peace.
When frozen with anxiety or tangled in “trying to figure things out,” may you too be inspired to relax and sit down, and trust that conditions will arise. May we all live our moments awake.