August 17, 2015

How to Relax into Suffering & Joy.

sitting thinking girl bench outside

In general, I consider myself a happy person.

I consider my ability to bounce back from whatever life tosses my way to be one of my greatest gifts.

But sometimes life becomes so overwhelming I feel as if I might be drowning.

This past year has been a difficult one. The accident I was in last June has proven to be one of the hardest things I’ve had to bounce back from. While my physical wounds have mostly healed and the lawsuit finally settled, emotionally I still feel unsettled.

The other day—during a particularly cloudy afternoon—I was talking to a friend, who obviously frustrated at my current state, exclaimed “you are supposed to be the happy one!”

Ooof, I thought, I’m not even doing myself right.

Later I recounted the conversation to my brother, who paused and said “don’t take this the wrong way—I think you want people to assume you’re happy, but I think you’ve always leaned towards melancholy.”

Talk about the illusion of self being shattered.

So I started thinking: is this grasping of who I and everyone else thinks I “should” be part of my suffering?

I’ve long understood the Buddhist teaching of non-attachment in life, that expecting things to be a certain way will only lead to suffering (ok, I’ve understood it, I’ve often struggled with the practice of it.)

But have I ever looked at how I view myself as a lifelong champion of a never ending game of whack-a-mole as being a crucial part of that lesson?

Was always clinging to a bright outlook, even when times were so unbearably hard, causing me more harm than good?

In the book When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times, Pema Chödrön writes:

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

I’ve read those words over and over again. If you’re struggling and stuck, I suggest you do the same.

Give yourself the same permission to feel pain as deeply as you feel joy. Understand that this is the ebb and flow of life.

There will be times when your heart is so full you want to scream from the rooftops, and there will be times your heart is so empty you can’t possibly figure out how to put one foot in front of the other.

And that is okay. Just keep going with the quiet reminder in your heart that nothing is permanent—not the good and certainly not the bad.

There are those who will pull away from your pain, who will expect you to continue to wear the mask that says “all is well,” and that is ok too, you have to let them. But just promise me, you will never let them tell you who you are “supposed to be.”



“To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight- and never stop fighting.” ~ E. E. Cummings





Buddhist rule re: Worrying.

Sometimes the Crisis Is the Healing. 




Author: Meghan Lintner

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: David Michalczuk at Flickr 

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