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Excerpted from Being Black by Angel Kyodo Williams. Copyright 2000 by Angel Kyodo Williams. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.

"We develop fixed ideas about the way things should be and the ways we always imagine things should be different."

  Angel Kyodo WilliamsBeing Black, Part 4

More so than our daily discomforts, the pain of tragic, abrupt, or otherwise upsetting events in our lives serve as sharp reminders that life is not within our control. We feel shuffled around by it, cast this way and that with nothing to hold on to. There seems to be no end to the potential for discomfort and pain, and we live our lives in fear of meeting them again. We be come intimate with pain and discomfort very early in life. From our earliest lessons that not everything is within our control, to this very moment, most of us are in a neverending battle with our own discomfort.

So life is uncomfortable, that much is true. But we knew this already, didn't we? Even if we have not said it in such simple terms.

We may feel a moment of relief at having it revealed in such a clear way: It is not just me. I am not crazy, nor am I alone. The truth is that life is full of suffering and pain. Everywhere you look, whether you turn on the television or walk outside your own door, once you are aware of this truth, you notice it more readily. Look! There is pain. There is pain among people of all ages, races, incomes, and education levels. We are all experiencing discomfort. We are all suffering.

Once you know this simple truth in your heart, it becomes the key to understanding the nature of your own existence. It may not happen in this very second, or tomorrow, or next week, but some experience or feeling at some time will bring this simple truth home to you. It will not be words in a book or a passing thought; you will feel it. It will open up before you and be as clear as the bright blue sky on the most perfect day. In that moment, the First Simple Truth that life is uncomfortable will be profound.

2. Desire causes discomfort

As humans, we are in a constant state of suffering over who we are and our life situation. By this, I mean that we feel that we are poor when it comes to what we have in our package to present to the world. We never feel that we have enough. We always want more of this or extra that. If I had that coat, I would be so happy. If I could just get this job or meet the right person, everything would change and my life would be better. Of course, when you get the coat or the job or the new lover, there is another someone or something that comes along in a few days or months or years that seems better, brighter, and more appealing.

We do this in all areas of our lives, from the smallest to the greatest. It is this wanting, this ever-present, unchecked desire that is at the root of our discomfort. We possess a constant craving and insistent desire for things to be either different than they are or to stay the way we want them to be longer. We develop fixed ideas about the way things should be and the ways we always imagine things should be different. We think we should have a bigger car or get with that person (or situation). If you tell yourself often enough that this is the way it should be, you begin to believe that idea in your mind, no matter where the idea came from to begin with.

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