Life can be a beautiful thing, but if we don’t understand life, we might end up fighting it. More often than not, it’s you and I against the world. Making a living, holding on to our relationships, to our wealth, our political and spiritual beliefs, these can become monumental struggles. Worry and fear is the classic result, followed closely by anger. When someone cuts us off in traffic, it’s not that one incident that sets us off; it’s the accumulation of pressures that have been simmering in our minds for quite sometime.

Some of us are fortunate; things go well enough that we develop expectations that our good luck will continue indefinitely, and we are able to create buffer zones. Then disrespect from other angry people doesn’t cause severe reactions, and the cycle of anger, where each tries to regain respect by diminishing the other, is disrupted, and things don’t spiral out of control. If the cycle of anger isn’t cut by someone by backing down, violence results, maybe even war.

But if life creates a majority of people who are dissatisfied because of a disparity of wealth, or a lack of freedom, or many of the inequities we see around the world, then violence becomes a way of life, and suffering can become widespread. The trouble is; we never know exactly how life will play out for us. It’s a crapshoot.

If we are intelligent at all, we know that our good life is susceptible to erosion, so we attempt to shore it up and secure ourselves. The definition of secure is “firmly attached,” and being firmly attached to anything means that we cling to it desperately. In other words, we fear losing it; therefore, security cannot exist without its companion . . . fear.

If we don’t understand our thirst for security and the resulting fear, then, although we are extremely intelligent in other areas, we are ignorant of the basic mechanisms of our heart, and when we are ignorant of life at this basic level, we make bad decisions. One bad decision is becoming angry when that which we cling to is threatened. Clinging is the first bit of ignorance, and anger merely compounds it.

This plays out all the time. Look at anybody who becomes angry, and underneath the anger you will find what it is they depend upon, what is threatened. We must investigate in this manner if we are ever to become free and see the beauty of life. Only when we understand our underlying motives and urges can we unchain ourselves. If we don’t understand our motives, how can we not blindly continue down the same roads that have caused so much of our worry and fear in the past?

This lack of understanding, and especially the lack of interest in understanding, is ignorance, an insidious ignorance, because we don’t realize that we’re ignorant; we think that we are extremely intelligent. Our intelligence, unfortunately only goes as far as our brains, and not our hearts. We are blind to the workings of our hearts. The heart to us means emotion, but this is not the heart at all, the heart is intelligent beyond emotion, beyond animal instincts of survival, of greed, hatred, and illusions. When we are able to develop this kind of intelligence, not only will we end our anger, but we will end our fear and conflict as well.

Whenever we don’t understand the realities of life, we will be in conflict with life and we will attempt to compete with it. It’s you and I against life; it’s a never ending clashing, and since life changes constantly, we can never satisfy ourselves that we have conquered it. The poor man runs out of money, and the rich man ruins out of life. All of our fear, our thirst for security, our conflict, and our struggles reveal a lack of intelligence. We are unintelligent when it comes to what is going on inside, and are blown about all the time by things outside of ourselves. And it’s all an illusion.

Life is life, and life rules. We can only control a very small part of it. It is folly to think that we can do more than this. Security is an illusion, and life in an organic body involves danger in many ways. To think that life is other than danger is a part of our basic ignorance. Therefore, our first glimmer of true intelligence will be to understand that life involves stress. The second glimmer will be when we understand what fundamentally causes the stress, which is not life. Life, itself, is beautiful.

If you are sitting in a chair reading this article, what would happen if suddenly the chair was empty? Picture the empty chair with you gone. Who is then there to feel the conflict that the world and life dishes out? No one. A definition of conflict is “a clash between two opposing groups or individuals,” and therefore conflict can only occur between two things. So when one of them is removed, there can be no conflict. It’s that simple, and our intelligence will point this out.

The challenge is to disappear while remaining on earth; then our conflicts would end along with our anger and worry. Disappearing, however, requires the highest kind of intelligence. How can we disappear so that we can live a sane and balanced life, and where we can find the beauty that life inherently is?

The root cause of our fear and thirst for security is our concept of our body and mind as something much greater than only elements of the earth. Why is this? It’s because we have built a sense of ourselves in our minds soon after we were born to protect us, and this manifests as an ego, or an “I”: thought. Here is where the conflict lies. Without an ego or “I” thought, there can be no conflict. There can only be beauty and peace.

The self or ego refers to a reflective personality that arises in our consciousness. If we develop a higher intelligence, we can discriminate between an illusory self or “I” thought and the mechanism that creates the illusion. This illusion is what artificially creates our angst, because we cling to this personality, and because we cling to it so desperately, we become insecure. Then our insecurity further complicates things when we search for some kind of permanence for this imaginary ego, and finally it all spins out of control as we accept all kinds of beliefs that guarantee the immortality of this contrived self. It’s all make believe, and there can be no escape for such an illusion, only constant suffering.

So we must become free of this self-deception through intelligence. Becoming free, however, is not easy. When we attempt to work things out in our heads, the very one working it out; our “I” thought, is the one that is the illusion, so we are using an illusion to solve our problems, and this never works. So, what can we do to solve this basic problem of our lives, this thing that causes us to miss out on the true beauty of life?

There is only one thing that can help us in this area of serious inquiry, an inquiry that could turn our lives around 180 degrees, and that one thing is deep reflection in the absence of thought, in the absence of our self or “I” thought, and where the beauty of the world and the beauty of life reveals itself. Where conflict is ended and fear dissolved.

And this one thing begins with simple meditation.

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit