Not Emptiness But Melting-ness

One of the problems I find in Buddhism is its formulaic approach, which can appear rather cold. We chant many prayers that are meant to melt us – and I’m not talking about sentimentality – but they don’t seem to work…well not from what I’ve seen. Rows of people – including myself – sit up straight on our special cushions, becoming more and more indifferent to those around us. We’re in our own emptiness 😉 but this is just a phase we are going through at this stage of our development.

The prayers may be descriptive and mention many past Tibetan masters but these do not mean much to a different culture that is not so ostentatious, even though we have tried to engender a feeling for this for many years. Our practice can become prosaic (unimaginative) in the sense of lacking empirical/first hand inspirational experience.

Texts do inspire in a ordered way, but because of their formality, they can lack true melting-ness of love; it is usually ‘my melting-ness’.

It’s not just Buddhists. We all have the same problem looking for the exotic when the middle-way is right under our nose. The escape route! We have become so indifferent that we don’t notice the beauty on the toilet door. What?

The “Desiderata” has become a pretty poster to pin up on the back of the toilet door to feel good for a while, when in fact it could change our lives completely. It is a beautiful instruction on how to live, but we can miss the whole point and become narrow minded even though we chant high minded prayers.

This poem was written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann, and only became famous after his death; I guarantee you will melt. Read it slowly as it’s not an academic piece; you are meant to join in the sentiment, without becoming sentimental. The word “visceral” is apt here – relating to deep inward feelings rather than to the intellect.


Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann

* Desiderata: Latin for ‘desired thing’.

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