It has been a really long time.
A lot has happened in the last year but at the same, not a lot has happened. During these last months, regular life has just happened. And through regular life, I have gone in and out of a mediation practice. I have felt connected to my meditation practice, and I have run away from my meditation practice. I have found the space to be considerate and kind to myself and those around me. And then I have been in places where I have felt constricted and belligerent. Towards others and myself.
In these last months, suffering has happened around me. Real deal suffering, violence and heartache has been happening in this world. I write this because I have struggled to acknowledge that even in normal life, in a life filled with quality and comfort, there can be suffering. It’s the first noble truth of Buddhism – life inevitably contains unavoidable suffering. The definition of suffering is broad and all encompassing. It all counts – discomfort, unease, dissatisfaction, stress and all the other undesirables. This brings me comfort. It all counts. Ash Beckham says it best – “there is no harder. There is only hard”.
The above is pretty bleak. Life = suffering. Everyone has hard.
So what has been hard?
I’ve been lonely. I moved to Germany almost 18 months ago and I’m still adjusting. I did not move to an international city, I moved to a small city. I moved to real-deal Germany. Its cute. It’s classic. There is beautiful scenery. It’s perfect for a weekend get-away but not an easy place to build a life. My suffering has been loneliness. And that counts. It all counts.
For the most part, I have been able to lean into the loneliness and acknowledge it. Turn towards it and stand my ground. But there have been times when the loneliness has been overwhelming and crushing. It’s these times where meditation is rocky, hard and scary. My self-righteous side says that suffering is our best teacher and when I suffer the most is when I need meditation the most. But screw that. In this place, the last thing I need is the ‘shoulds’. And if I can’t meditate in this place, then I can’t meditate in this place. I may need time. I may need a break. I may need to stand down to my suffering before I can stand back up. The strength isn’t always in powering through. Sometimes the strength knowing when to back off.
This is where a practice helps. It helps to realize what I truly need as opposed to powering through what I should do. In actuality, what I should do, is a type of avoidance. My meditation practice has brought me closer to the RDM and this has taught me the importance of respecting my true needs. Kindness towards myself is going to get me a lot farther than any other approaches. It’s easy for our ego to cling to the accomplishment of every-damn-day standards. But meditation is always there. You can come back to it whenever you want. Right/wrong/better/worse leads to judgement and shame and that has gotten me nowhere closer to kindness and peace.
And there it is. What hard is. Where suffering comes from.
Right/wrong/better/worse assigns an expectation. If that expectations doesn’t align with our should, suffering happens. But it doesn’t have to. Suffering can be there. Without assignment. Without expectation. And you can let yourself have a natural reaction to it. The honest reaction you need to have. Again, without assignment. Without expectation.
Thich Nhat Hanh says:
“Recognizing and identifying our suffering is like the work of a doctor diagnosing an illness. He or she says, ‘If I press here, does it hurt?’ and we say, ‘Yes, this is my suffering. This has come to be.’ The wounds in our heart become the object of our meditation. We show them to the doctor, and we show them to the Buddha, which means we show them to ourselves.” [From The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (Parallax Press, 1998) page 28]
All of this is to say – my journey is my journey and this is where I’ve been. Meditation is always there. Use meditation to understand what and when you need it.
Meditate & be well.