Posts Tagged ‘Suffering’

homesick

November 10th, 2011    -    16 Comments

Not long ago I heard from someone who thanked me for giving her permission to struggle with her depression. Oh yes, I assured her, by all means, struggle! Depression is the sane response to the insanity of our lives. Depression is the struggle to be sane! We’re not fools if we struggle with depression. We’re fools if we don’t. It’s crucial that we seek, so we can finally exhaust ourselves, turn around, and find what we already possess.

They say every sickness is homesickness, and when I hear that, I feel sick for every moment I spend running away. They still outweigh the length I stay.

Even on a good day, when we’re snug in the bosom of our sweetest sentiments, in the Eden of our dreams, it doesn’t feel like home for very long. The stirrings start. The restlessness rears. We become feverish with longing, a longing that consumes our every thought. We might even make a home of our homesickness, becoming naturalized to a state of unrest and alienation. I’ve got to get out of here. How many times have you said that to yourself today?

Much of the time, our own life feels like a foreign country we can’t wait to get out of. And not a nice foreign country, either.  Even life with the people we profess to love, to whom we have promised fidelity. (Especially those people.) Even the half-decent job, the nice neighborhood, the loyal friends, the adorable kids, the good luck, the manifold blessings, the plan realized, the wish come true — nothing settles or calms for long, nothing feels quite right. There’s no place like the home you think you don’t have.

We’re all looking for something more, in a state of mild-to-moderate or even chronic despair. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you’ve got — how well you can manage your store of talents or prospects — you are somehow convinced that you haven’t yet got “it.” Not the whole of it, not enough to be completely satisfied or secure. Maybe you haven’t yet figured it out, had it happen, gotten it done, or pulled it together. You might think you need a lucky break, a promotion, a new body, another lover — or the old lover — another child; you might call it higher purpose, passion, or simply, inspiration. Maybe you want things to be as good as they were before, back when you didn’t know how good it was. Maybe you want things to be better than ever, as good as everyone else seems to have it. Feeling as if you’re not enough and don’t have enough, I want you to know, is good enough. It’s what got you this far.

Thus we arrive at the first step on the path of faith, a step that Buddha called “right view.” It is the slender flicker of wisdom, the illuminating certainty that you are lost. As verification of your own insight, it is followed immediately by the second step, the realization that you have to turn yourself around. You have go back home.

And here you are.

twitter zen

October 12th, 2011    -    18 Comments

An actual email exchange.

Hello, I am interested in Zen practice and live nearby. I’d like to schedule a visit sometime soon.

>Thank you for contacting us. We recommend that you first take the introductory Zen meditation class offered every Saturday from 8:30-10:30 a.m. It covers the basics of Zen Buddhism, meditation techniques and our lineage.

>>I am not looking for a class on meditation right now. The idea of sitting through a two-hour class is off-putting to say the least. I merely want to visit for 10-15 minutes.

grief is its own teacher

July 19th, 2011    -    1 Comment

And takes its own time. This could help.

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your proof

June 27th, 2011    -    16 Comments

Zen is to deal with this very life – here now – as one’s own.  We have to face the fact of this now, this here and this oneself.  That’s what each of us is facing. That is the path. That is the Way. – Maezumi Roshi

When people bring me their stories of pain and despair; when they are broken-hearted and lonely; when I hear their panic and fear, their sobs and gasping breath, what can I say? What can I do? There is nothing I can say; no way to fix it. When people bring me their disbelief, their last hope, their rage, I can only meet it with a nod. Yes! Yes! You are right! It is true! You are not dreaming this, you are wide awake! How I wish it weren’t so, this time. How I wish for the things we all wish for.

Like you, I wish I could go back in time and undo every disaster, every accident, every tough break and piece of bad news. I want your life to once again be just as you thought it was or as you hoped it would be. I want it desperately, but I have nothing to offer you except this.

You’ll always reach the end of how you thought your life would go. You’ll reach it many, many times. What looks like the low point is also the high point. What looks like the end is always the beginning . Finding faith may seem impossible in your darkest times, but like the earth’s eternal orbit and the sun’s ceaseless shine, impossible things happen all the time. You may be lost right now, but after days, months, even years in the wilderness, you will be found alive. Completely, joyously, miraculously alive. This right here is your proof.

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how twitter works

June 7th, 2011    -    21 Comments

It doesn’t. Not really. Twitter doesn’t work. It’s like all those things you think will work that actually don’t work. Like being famous doesn’t work. Or being what you think successful is. Or admired, smart, clever, popular or quotable. Or having more followers. Or getting elected. Or getting an agent or a book deal. Or falling in love. Or getting another wife or husband or career after your last tweet doesn’t quite work. None of it works the way you’re thinking it will.

Twitter is just another name for another thing that will disappoint you, even betray you. It is an agent of your demise – the demise of how you want things to turn out.

If I could just ratchet up those numbers, cross that threshold, send more, get more, do more, have more. You know how that works.

It’s kind of fascinating that when these new things roll around we think, for a minute or two, that they will change human drama, human tragedy, or human history. Revolutionize it! They don’t. They don’t change the ending of anything. They might even hasten it. At best, they hasten the end of the dream.

The way I think of Twitter is the same way I think of advertising. And advertising doesn’t work either. I worked for more than two decades in advertising and PR, alongside great people and with great companies and I learned some great things about life and work. One of the things we all learned was that advertising and PR don’t work. Well, not quite the way you hope they will. Not like magic or make believe. Advertising only works when you have endless sums of money and you pollute the world with your advertising and then it works in the same way trees and rocks and buildings work – they show up everywhere. There’s no magic in that, no strategy or cleverness, just sheer tonnage. And endless money and hopes and dreams and schemes and silliness just circulating around like so much dust.

But when you see the dust! That’s when it begins to work. That’s when the real conversation starts. That’s worth hoping for.

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p.s. i love you

April 19th, 2011    -    21 Comments

It was the toothbrush that told me. Alone and overlooked in the emptied medicine chest, it was one of the few things my lover had left behind. When I found it, I knew with certainty what I’d been denying to myself for some time.

It was over.

In truth, our relationship had been over for longer than I’d wanted to believe, but in beginnings and endings, one party can lag the other on the uptake. If the toothbrush was my messenger, what was his? Perhaps the time I kicked his suitcase to the curb? For years after, I would forget that part in the telling of the story, since we tell stories our own way.

Whether by choice or circumstance, by the fleet seasons of romance or the final curtain of death, love ends. At least the love that is a story ends. And when that happens, what are we left with? A passage we might otherwise never dare to take. A portal through denial, disbelief and despair, through rage and madness, beyond delusive fairytales and melodrama, into a state of wakeful grace that can only be called true love.

True love is what is left behind when love leaves. It only looks like the end. Make it through one ending, and you might change your mind about all endings. That is the miracle cure, the ultimate healing, left behind on an empty shelf.

***

Someone asked me to write an article about love. Specifically, about the ending of love, because nobody needs help with the beginning of love.

So I’ve been thinking about love, and here are some of the things I’ve been thinking. Thinking about love is the opposite of love, because love is never what you think. read more

2:24 a.m.

February 9th, 2011    -    9 Comments

We never need to make our lives more difficult than they are, but of course we do. Then one day life itself rises up with an irrevocable force and we suddenly find that there is nothing we can do. Here is a message I received from Rose in Amsterdam not long ago. Since then, I’ve been visiting her blog daily, where I’m struck by her elegantly sage and poetic posts about her family. What she writes is more profound than anything I can offer, and proof that compassion and wisdom are indeed self-arising. Please visit her and leave your kindness.

This afternoon I planned to write you regarding your last email almost a year ago. I wanted to tell you how grateful I was about your words and how meaningful they still are to me.

This afternoon the phone rang and my husband told me that he was called to the ER immediately. Something appeared to be wrong with his blood, which had been drawn that morning. He’s a normal healthy person who happened to feel very tired. But which parent isn’t tired? we thought. I found a babysitter for our boys (ages 1 1/2 and 3) and rushed over there. A couple of hours later he was diagnosed with leukemia.

He asked me how to cope with his tremendous fear in facing this disease and the road ahead of him. The pain. But mainly the fear. Of course I’m literally scared to death too, but it isn’t my body that has to do the fighting.

Is there anything I could tell him? Besides the fact that I love him, truly and deeply. We both aren’t religious and always try to take life as realistically as it appears in front of us. But now we feel swept from our feet, and at this time we know we need to be grounded to make the right decisions.

I read your blog daily and read how often people email you with their problems. At 2:24 in the morning, I’m one of them. I simply wish I could have sent you the email I intended to write this afternoon, when I knew my life as it was.

Love from Amsterdam,
Rose Stamet-Geurs

a little problem with suffering

January 24th, 2011    -    22 Comments

Sometimes I get a little pushback on the topic of Buddhism, particularly the subject of suffering. People say something like, “Gosh, all that talk about suffering! Aren’t you guys a bit over the top with all the suffering? That’s so negative.”

Yes, it’s true, the foundation of Buddha’s teaching is the Four Noble Truths, which usually are stated like this:

Life contains suffering
The origin of suffering is attachment
The cessation of suffering is attainable
There’s an Eightfold Path to freedom

Let me be clear. Buddhism doesn’t elevate, emphasize or worship suffering. Buddhism says, “Let’s just face the facts, people.” Despite our earnest attempts to conjure optimism, hope, abundance, luck, gratitude, aptitude, cleverness, perfect SATs, and triumphant superiority, there is nothing more universally human than having a problem.

To prove it, let’s take the word “suffering.” You might have a problem with it. Suffering sounds so big – Haitian earthquake, Tucson rampage, global warming big – when the kind of suffering most of us encounter every day is so embarrassingly trivial we might not even recognize it as suffering. More like WHO ATE THE REST OF MY MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP.

There’s all the other kinds of suffering too – like old age, sickness, death, Jersey Shore, and taxes – but we can’t really do much about those, can we? So the kind of suffering we start with is the kind that actually causes us and everyone around us the most problems AS FOR INSTANCE WHEN SOMEONE WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS (YOU) ATE THE REST OF MY MINT CHOCOLATE CHIP.

So I like to state the Four Noble Truths this way:

Life is full of problems.
It always seems like my problem starts with you but it really starts with me.
It always seems like you should fix my problem but in the end it’s up to me.
I’m going to the store, want anything?

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