“Suffering…part one” [Skip down to the second part, if you have already had enough Suffering…smile!]
I feel overwhelmed today with the suffering of this world. With the death of Shane, a young, passionate writer on WordPress, it has struck me deeply again.
I once saw suffering only as tremendous pain and loss. While it certainly is that, it can be understood on another level. Since last evening, after my night at the Mindfulness Center and our meditation on “Suffering,” I have come to see it in a different light. Now I understand suffering refers to the impermanence of people, things, and events in our lives.
Change is the only permanent thing. Nothing ever stays the same…a concept that I am sure I heard in songs over the sixty some years of my life, but never really understood the depth of that idea of which I do now. Buddha is quoted as saying, “I teach one thing only–that is suffering and the end of suffering.” I am not sure if I grasp that fully, but I believe that one thing that it can mean, is that if we see suffering as impermanence…then the time it will cease, is when we leave this life. Then it will end.
Of course there is more to life than suffering…there is much love…that sustains us and keeps us going. Without love, the world would have ceased long ago. Love convinces me that there is something or Someone greater than ourselves. I firmly believe that all of life exists in the Heart of God…and that Heart is Universal Love. And I believe when we leave Mother Earth our energy is not destroyed but returns to the Creator of Love. It is inevitable that we each will die. Death is escaped by no one. We can run and hide from it…but it is going to happen to each of us…and I am thinking that in our Western society, we tend to run from it with all that we have. Because we are so busy running, we fail to live in the moment. We are running from our own mortality. And why do we fear what will happen eventually? Perhaps if we resisted it less, we could live the present in a more fuller sense. We would not be running, but we would be living in the NOW.
I believe that the Loving God has taken my young friend, Shane, into Loving Arms. I think death is not permanent…just another change…into greater becoming.
As I further my reflection about suffering, I realize that suffering is not all that there is about life. If we only looked at life in that manner, it would be quite dismal. Then I think of the many ways I find myself slipping into that pattern of thinking. I have to tell myself strongly to “STOP!” [a word that I received from a good friend…so simple…yet definitive…and does the job!] It is quite easy to say I hate feeling that way–because I really do–and it depletes me of my energy and focus…it makes me paralyzed. I literally can not move my body to do anything! Then I have to muster up the courage, with a lot of phone calls to friends who keep me strong, and begin again to BE.
When I was working full-time as a teacher, it was much easier to pull myself out of it, because I felt I had a purpose and that I had to be my best self for my students. I am sure I did not always succeed as well as I would have liked, but, for the most part, when teaching I felt full of energy and enthusiasm. The creative side of me took over and I thoroughly enjoyed my students! Then my career came to an end, sooner than I had anticipated.
I felt such a great sense of loss. I could no longer see a purpose. The first year was pure hell—I think I walked around in a daze. I began writing on WordPress in October of 2011. If I wrote one post a month, that was a major accomplishment.
I was overcome with grief. My Mom, who I love with all of my heart, died at the age of 94. She was living with us…my home became her home…just as she had always opened her home to all of us for all the time that she lived. Mom was very welcoming and we could bring our friends to her home any time and each was welcomed. Sixty years was a gift to me…but it still was not enough. Then my sister, Barbara, passed away 6 months later from myotonic dystrophy. Then this past March, my younger brother, Bill, passed away from the same disease. Prior to my Mom’s death, my sister’s son, Jimmy, died from the myotonic dystrophy. It was five years of loss of life…and then my meaningful job was gone…my children left the nest, and here I was…alone in this house!
I still find it difficult…I am still trying to find my way. Now at least, I can stop pretending that there hasn’t been loss. I can stop pretending that there is not suffering. To be able to acknowledge that suffering in my life has freed me. It took looking at it squarely and accepting that it exists.
Many good intentioned people would say to me, “Hey, look at what you all did!”…”You could have it a lot worse!’…”You have a house to live in, food to eat, you can do whatever you want. You have it made!” I could NOT swallow that. I could not digest it! It just got me more angry every time someone would say something like that to me. They did NOT understand my losses and seemed to minimize my feelings. And I really did NOT feel that I had “it made.” Financially, I live on the edge of the ledge and live very carefully with my coins. Where I live is also a constraint. There is no public transportation. In many ways, I thought, “they just do not listen; they do not get it!” I just became more angry inside.
Then I realized, depression is anger turned inside. I needed to accept my loss, accept my anger, and go forward.
Then I began attending the Mindfulness Center last Fall. This is the second time I am working through the book, INSIGHT MEDITATION, and I am sure I could read it a thousand times more and I would still learn more about mindfulness and about myself, and my relationship with others. I was so happy to come to the chapter, “Suffering!” Yes, that is a contradiction—but, alas, I knew my feelings were not false. I was indeed suffering and it was being acknowledged!
So it has been two years now since all the caterpillars have changed to butterflies, and two years since my life has changed from 36 years of teaching, and I am off to the races…so to speak!
Now I can begin my journey to healing…
INSIGHT MEDITATION by Sharon Salzberg Joseph Goldstein; SOUNDS TRUE, Blouder, Colorado. 2001.