Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Even Buddhists Get the Blues.
So I dragged my depressed butt to temple and figured I would simply resign myself to being the world's worst meditator. I stared at tiny spiderwebs. I looked at cracks in the floor. I listened to cars speeding by and maybe heard a bird chirp once or twice, not that I cared. I opened my eyes and stared at everyone else mediating. I scratched my head. Rubbed my nose. Adjusted my shirt.
I was a meditating mess.
The reading from the Dhammapada was an even bigger disaster. The passage was about how happy we Buddhists are. We're so happy because we refrain from hatred and jealousy. We're so happy because we don't need material things. We're so happy because we're not competitive. We're so happy because we're not sad and depressed. I listened to the words and had to keep myself from standing up and shouting: "I am pious fraud! I am miserable! I don't belong here."
But I didn't. I just felt like an even bigger failure. In addition to sucking at being a wife, mother and copywriter, now I was sucking as a Buddhist. Way to pile on, Universe.
Our Stand-In Guiding Teacher (SIGT) for the month of August told some stories of Buddhists behaving badly. Monks being jealous and catty. Co-workers reacting to each other rather than listening. In other words, people being human. It turns out it doesn't matter whether you're in a temple or in the world, you're going to have to deal with all the ugly aspects of humanity. In others and in yourself. We are not perfectly pleasant. We are not happy gods. We are messy mortals with emotions and triggers all over the damn place.
The first trick is to be aware of it. The second trick is to not react to it.
SIGT said we all have our hand on the trigger. Our hands hover over two options on a switch: Flight or Fight. We're quick to defend ourselves to the onslaughts of the world. To the challenges of other people. To being wrong. To being right. To being scared. Threatened. Alone. Falling apart. Broken. Mistaken. We're ready to run away or fight to the death if anyone dares challenge us and our perception of ourselves.
All this defending. All this fleeing and fighting. And we're fighting with very human things: Work, family, friends, children, politics, mind. It's all so exhausting. If you're trying to be perfect and to be perfectly blameless, you're going to run yourself right into the ground.
I finally summoned up the courage to ask SIGT how to do this? How do we stop defending? How do we not flip the switch to either Fight or Flight? I can't seem to stop myself. I can't just sit with the discomfort. It feels like death. It feels like drowning. It feels like suffocation and disaster. I want to curl up into a ball and grow an exoskeleton. Sometimes I feel I can't take much more.
"What do I do, SIGT? How do I stop?" I wondered if she could hear the desperation in my voice, despite me trying to sound super casual about the whole thing.
She explained that it's not easy. That it's a process. But then she concluded with this: "In the end, you have to know that everything is going to be okay."
That got my attention.
"You have to know that if you're wrong, it will be okay," she said.
And there it was. She had the answer to my problem and that moment of enlightenment hit me hard. I cried all the way to temple in loneliness. I cried all the way home in awareness.
You see, that's just it. I'd forgotten that it is going to be okay. I'm going to be okay.
Depression is the voice that tells me I will not be okay. It tells me that this will be the end of me. I will not endure. But depression is not real. It is not right. It is not wise.
I will listen to the Buddha. I will listen to the teacher. I will have faith that they are right. I will be okay. Let those words of light chase away the words of the night. The darkness is a lie. I must remember that.
I can sit with this knowledge and I know I will be okay.