Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Living in Exile from Ourselves in Comfort

Humans like comfort. And that impulse has been strongly exploited here in the U.S., to the point where it's considered normal to place comfort over most everything else. The economy is bad. The political leaders don't listen to the 99%. Well, hey, at least I have my sports team to watch. Or my ipod. Or my small group of friends I can bitch about life with. Or even my own political action group to fall back on and disappear into.

So many of us, myself included, get hooked on the idea that the best life is one free of discomfort and dis-ease. We are so conditioned in this way that our minds often leap straight from where we are to the narratives of liberation from discomfort and dis-ease, without considering what might lie in the space between.

In other words, whenever things get a little bit rough and unpleasant, the dominant storyline has been to go find whatever it is that makes us feel better in the short term.

The eighth precept speaks about not being stingy with anything, but how many of us practitioners actually share freely our experiences of discomfort and disease? And even more importantly, do so in a way that isn't imposing or dumping upon others?

When I look at all of this through the eighth Buddhist precept, it's pretty clear to me that I'm often possessive, often stingy when it comes to discomforts and disease. Sharing these experiences, especially when they are full blown in the moment often scares the crap out of me. I don't want to appear to be a mess. Sometimes, I fear rejection. Other times, I'm worried about having to fend off unwanted offers of "help." Mostly though, when I think about it, I'm stingy because I don't expect anyone to truly listen to whatever is occurring for me - and unfortunately, this is often the case in life.

The reality is that every moment of sharing is a moment of risk taking. There's no way to know how anything you say or do will be taken, even by your mother, lifelong partner, or best friend. So, all you can really do is assess the situation, feel out if the timing might be right, and then decide whether to share or not.

I think a large part of the reason why the big social issues go round and round with variations on the same old story is that each of is doing much the same in our own lives. Leaping on fear and hate bandwagons is so much easier than sitting with a sense of being exiled from one's self, our discomfort - not separate from anything else.

1 comment:

spldbch said...

You are so right. There are so many of us whose lives are driven by the desire to avoid emotional pain. It is, of course, a perfectly natural desire - no one wants to hurt. But one of the great things about being human is that we have the ability to look beyond our instinctual desires. We miss out on so much when we live our lives only to avoid pain. Every new relationship or friendship carries some risk; if we never take that risk, we miss out on all of the rewards that come from a close interpersonal relationship. When we stick with the status quo because we are comfortable with what we know and are uncomfortable with uncertainty. we stand against change that could make life better or more fulfilling.