I have a sick dog right now. He seems to be doing better on medication but I am having a hard time letting myself be hopeful. This feels like one more body blow from life that I can’t take right now.
I have a friend, the author Jon Katz, who says he doesn’t want his life to be a struggle story. I agree. I don’t want to bemoan all the bad things that have happened, are happening to me. I want to live a life of joy and gratitude. And I have so much to be grateful for. But sometimes it’s just so damn hard.
I see people around me going through terrible things and doing it with such grace and humor. I wonder, are they really that enlightened, or are they just showing that face to the world. In the privacy of their room, do they beat their fists against the wall?
I try very hard to keep that attitude of hopefulness and optimism. But there is this woman in my head who keeps screaming. No words, just a long, howling primal scream. I try to “La la la la” her out of my head. I yell back “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” I try mantras, prayers, counting my blessings, loving my dogs, quality time with my husband, humming the Pharell Williams’ “Happy” song, watching funny animal videos, walking in nature. It all works for awhile. She quiets down a bit. Sometimes she goes completely silent. But she’s always there, waiting. Waiting for that moment when I think I’ve got it all under control; right before the loose gravel under my feet shifts and I start sliding backwards down the mountain.
I’m so tired of her. She wears me out. I’ve decided my best defense, my magic potion, is to laugh at her. To stick my tongue out and say “Go away you silly hag. Go haunt someone else.”
I’ll let you know if it works.
I can relate to this. Maybe the part of us that screams is more an overwhelmed child than a hag. Wishing you peace and comfort in those times when you’re on the brink. If you keep working on your practice, and bring your fear, sorrow and wounded-ness to God in prayer, it will get easier. Who says that humor is the only way to enlightenment? Sometimes we have to offer up that which is “least” in us. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Also, sometimes our deep grief and pain is more like a “howl,” something primal that connects us on a very deep level to the suffering of all creatures and the suffering of the world. I came across this idea when listening to a CD by the philosopher and visionary Peter Kingsley, and that insight has brought consolation and shown me the spiritual opportunities even in despair. If you can find it, the name of the 2 CD set is The Language of the Birds and The Secrets of Depression. Sometimes we need to enter the silence, go to the depths, listen to a requiem mass, let the tears flow, for ourselves and for the sorrows of the world.
What I mean by practice is shamatha and Vipassana, concentration and insight meditation, respectively. One, which keeps returning focus to the breath, brings stability, and a deepening of both physical and subtle breath in the psyche that will calm the mind’s turbulence, and can at higher levels of accomplishment lead to various stages of Samadhi. The other is insight meditation, in which you watch the movements of your mind without judgment, but it is best to do this after creating stability with Shamatha. I offer this advice as one who has let her practice slip, but have really benefitted from it in the past, and need to get back to it.
I would also recommend Jennifer Bowman’s post in The Trailhead, “In Praise of Anger and Melancholy.”
I appreciate all your comments Susan. I try to be faithful with my meditation practice but mostly, it’s hit or miss. However, I do feel the difference when I meditate regularly.
I hear you, Mary Ann. I need to be more faithful with my practice. I also feel a difference when I am diligent. It’s important to do the practice before something happens to unsettle us, and to accept that even with practice sometimes there’s no avoiding grief, even when sitting in meditation. I stopped meditation for a long time partly because instead of finding peace, I found overwhelming sorrow welling up after a deep loss. I probably should have stayed with it, though.
Thank you for sharing your process, your dance. It is helpful to me.