Even as a mindfulness practitioner, I still find myself from time to time, showing up stressed out, fearful, perhaps even with great doubt as a result of the pace of life and its challenges and threats. Or in moments of exuberance show up wondering ‘how can I make this last longer? how can I do this again soon?’ Both of these ways of showing up are full of discontent, even when the experience is pleasant. We are caught up in some mix of denial, resistance or wanting things to be other than they are.
It is a belief in the Buddhist tradition that we are brought to a given moment - to whatever is the Now for you- as a result of multiple causes and conditions, many of which have been beyond our ability to control. We have been influenced by our genetic makeup, by the conditioning within our families as we grew up and by this culture in which we live—none of which we chose
My spoiled brat has taken to waking me up in the middle the night over the past year…often at around 3:00 AM. He likes to get up early and apparently he wants company. He’s good at getting it too. He likes to remind my reactive self of every reason to tackle one “problem” or another immediately…often with the result of causing two additional problems. He likes to remind me of how my life sucks next to the lives of others. Comparison is one of his favorite late night games. He knows every weakness in my psyche and seems to love playing at the master control board of my neuroses, periodically flipping the “throw a pity party” switch…and I have duly obliged him all too often.
This past March I went to a week-long silent retreat at a buddhist monastery in the wooded hills of West Virginia (yes, West Virginia). It is a beautiful, simple place. No talking unless absolutely necessary. Up at 5am for the first sit at 6. No food after noon. To someone who happened upon the place unknowingly we may have looked half catatonic and rather unhappy – as if we had been sent there against our will and were not allowed to leave.