I am grumpy this morning.
And I was grumpy last night, and it is very possible that I will be grumpy throughout the day, or not. Who knows, really, since feeling states are impermanent feeling forms that arise and dissolve all the time.
Anything might happen.
We all have spiritual teachings that tick us off (or at least that we don’t agree with). Mine is the idea that all we have to do is feel good (be positive) in order for good things to happen.
On a certain level, I see the validity in this idea. I do believe that what is in our hearts, minds and consciousness is linked to the cause of what is happening to us on this earthly plane of existence.
I also believe in the first noble truth of Buddhism, which is life is suffering.
This brings us to the fact that my grumpiness is the most normal thing in the world. Feeling the suffering of being human is the normal way we can expect to feel, and therefore telling ourselves that we need to feel good when we really don’t feel good is a type of repression, a form of self-denial.
Life isn’t specifically responding to the smile on our face; it is responding to everything about us—body, mind, soul, energy field, chakras, pain, trauma, hopes, dreams, beliefs and habits.
Pretty complicated when you think about it, huh?
It’s also pretty miraculous.
I think of this teaching—that tells us that all we need to do to get what we want in the world is feel good—as putting a candy coating of joy on top of our innate and innocent pain and suffering.
The pain and suffering is still there when we pretend to feel good. The pain and suffering is still radiating as a magnet, and bringing more of the same, but we keep pretending everything is positive, in a false hope that through this faking that we feel okay, everything will actually be okay.
This is the lie.
There is no way to know everything will be okay, for the simple fact that we are human, and as the Buddha told us, that means suffering is part of the journey.
However, there is merit in this teaching that feeling good is good for us.
Because one of the best assets of being human is free will and choice.
Mindfulness teaches us that we can choose where to put our attention.
Most of the time, we don’t choose—we just let our attention flow with whatever is grabbing us in the moment, or more likely with whatever we are accustomed to giving our attention to.
In this present grumpy state I am in, there is a pull to blame people and situations for this uncomfortable feeling of grumpiness I am experiencing
I see this pull to blame and through the power of choice I have had decided that this story of blame isn’t true, and I that I would rather put my attention elsewhere.
So, instead I am choosing to feel what is strong on a sensory level in this moment.
I feel the hot sun coming through my bedroom window, heating up my arm as I type. I look out the other window in front of me and really appreciate the shade of green of the new growth of leaves on the birch patch in the meadow.
I feel my heart, the little tightness of contraction. I just feel it, not in an attempt to make the grumpiness go away, but instead because the thoughts aren’t real, they are passing forms of energy trying to make sense of a moment that will never make sense.
And it doesn’t have to.
There is no security, there is no certainty, there is no way to always feel okay. Instead there is choice in each and every moment where we want to put our attention. Trying to make ourselves feel good, from a place of feeling fearful that if we don’t feel good bad things might happen, is a form of aggression against ourselves.
It is the story we have always told children.
We tell them “Don’t cry, it doesn’t hurt that much” or “Don’t be mad at your brother—he wasn’t mean to you.”
We encourage ourselves and each other to deny how the moment actually feels in an attempt to feel alright.
We tell ourselves our feelings are wrong, we shouldn’t be so upset, and that we are causing our own pain and suffering because of our own deficiency in an ability to feel good at all times.
This is self-cruelty.
That is why, to me, the work of healing isn’t learning to feel good, instead the work is to learn to be better at being uncomfortable. And by better, I mean kinder.
And by kinder, I mean kinder to ourselves.
We all have feeling and thought states that we don’t like.
Ones we wish would never occur again.
Ones we think we are to blame for.
I would like to suggest that where we can really create healing in our own lives, and in the lives of others, is not in trying to not have these feeling and thought states that we label as negative or bad, but instead to just let them arise organically, and then to see if we can shift our internal state from a hostile feeling to a loving feeling while we are having these dissatisfactory feelings.
That is why I don’t care that I am grumpy right now.
Grumpiness is the truth of this moment.
The lie is that in being grumpy, somehow I am not a good person, that I have done something wrong, and that I need to change.
Grumpy is here, so it is reality, and it is allowed.
But even in the grumpiest of moments I can still feel connected to the earth, and the inter-connectedness of all life. I can still feel the sun and the air, and I can feel the perfection in the design of life that has brought me to be incarnated to in this place and time right now.
No feeling how big, small, mean or blissful needs to take that away from us.
We are expansive beings and we can sit in a dynamic state of experiencing many sensations and emotions in our bodies and minds at the same time.
We can hold anger and love together.
We can hold bliss and grief at the same time.
We don’t need to feel good, instead little by little we can become increasingly aware of our thoughts and habit patterns and see where we are being rude, mean and unyielding to our own natural states of being and we can soften.
We can allow.
We can make a choice to react to our own impermanent nature with curiosity, kindness and willingness, even when we know it will all never be okay.
We can still feel the hot sun coming through the window, heating up our forearm, as we type away, writing about kindness while we feel grumpy as hell.
At least, this is what I am going to do.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editors: Renée Picard; Catherine Monkman