March 25, 2014

Grasping for Certainty Keeps us from Healing.

Photo: courtesy of author

I am often approached with two questions or statements, if you will, based on similar stances.

The first is, “how can I teach and address issues about anxiety, when I personally have anxiety,” and second is, “if I was part of a real faith (i.e. an Abrahamic tradition), wouldn’t god have healed me of my anxiety.” Both of these questions are offered from a standpoint of grasping.

As human beings, we desire to find a stance on solid ground. We want a sense of true security and something bigger to put our faith in. This is understandable. Dealing with the reality of impermanence is hard and many times, terrifying.

It’s not easy to sit in the sea of uncertainty and feel comfortable. This being said, I understand why people take this stance with me. Why should they listen to a person who still deals with anxiety?

The problem however, is like I said; these questions are asked from a view of grasping, not understanding. Most of us would love a magic pill; a simple prayer that changes everything and takes away all fear, doubt, suffering and confusion.

This isn’t reality though.

This is why as someone who has dealt with anxiety, addiction and my own mortality; I specialize in working with teens, addicts and the dying. These are the issues that started me on the path of the dharma.

I remember my doctor walking into my suite several years ago and saying, “Ty, you’re dying.” I was terrified. I have children, I had a business and I had unresolved issues. I was faced with the first noble truth in the most brutal of ways.

Sadly, it took me a while to see that. I resisted, I fought back and I lashed out in anger and fear. I was in what the Kubler-Ross model would call denial. This isn’t an auto-biography though. My point is about the simple issue of the human condition.

The most liberating and life affirming view is not the easiest way out. It is not the pray and hope someone saves me model. It is having the courage to sit down, buckle up and take a long hard look at our situation.

We fear, we suffer, we doubt and we cling and grasp at miracles. The greatest miracle though isn’t some supernatural feat. It’s simply having the courage as a human being to say, “Okay, I’m scared, but I can do this.”

So yeah, I do still struggle, no matter what path you choose to take or not take, the reality of suffering will be there. Our problems will still be there, and even though our “conversion” may feel great, eventually, that “spiritual materialism” will wear off and we will have to sit with uncertainty.

The Buddha said,

 “All component things in the world are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.”

Our grasping for certainty is part of that struggle to find healing.

So, to answer the question I started with, I teach because I am also struggling. Not separate from you, or above you, but hand in hand with you. I offer my struggle as a bit of encouragement that maybe someone will relate to. Besides, there has to be another damn fool out there just like me.

Stay tuned for the answer to the second question…


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: elephant archives

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