This is why the Buddha would Tell us to Stop Apologizing.
We are not going to feel great every day. Nor are we going to do fantastic things each time we set out to do so.
However, why the heck do we feel so bad about ourselves when we are seen not feeling our best? Why do we keep thinking that we need to hide certain sides of who we are?
There seems to be some misinformation that has spread throughout our society in general, and that is: What we are is not okay.
It is this feeling that most of us carry inside. We think that if people really knew who we were, they wouldn’t love us, want us to work for them, choose us as their friends, or keep us around as family.
But is this really true? Who wants a perfect companion anyway? Personally, I find perfection rather boring.
Despite knowing this—and even with all of the daily meditation I do—when I am feeling less then sparkly, I want to disappear. Yes, if there was a special vanishing cape that I could put on, I probably would-–-and poof, no one would see me for hours. Unfortunately (and fortunately), this invention has not yet been created, so I head out into the world, even when I do not want to.
Like today…nothing about me felt right. My hair was not having a good morning. At lunch, I spilled curry all over my pants. The bags under my eyes were especially pronounced. I went to my meditation center, and everyone there seemed to annoy me. My writing wouldn’t flow out of me—I spent all day deliberating over one, sub-par poem. I felt incredibly uncomfortable in my own skin and generally grumpy.
What made this worse was that I kept thinking I should not feel this way, and that there was something wrong with this version of myself. Even the smiling woman at the coffee shop me made me feel antsy. I felt like she must be seeing what an awfully disappointing person I actually was.
Why? Why do we feel this way? Why is it that when we are down, we make things harder? Possibly, because it is the most difficult thing for us to have compassion for ourselves. We prefer to self-criticize.
However, through meditation, we can examine exactly this kind of thing. We observe our minds, and we get to know the “trips” we send ourselves on with our thoughts.
Usually, when we are having these types of days, what is underneath them is a feeling of vulnerability, which is the essence of our human nature. This is what we would like to pretend is not happening—that we are human.
At one particularly challenging meditation retreat, our teacher decided to give us a talk mid-afternoon. She could see we were getting uptight. Sitting all day wasn’t as peaceful as we had imagined.
The words she shared with us were some she had received from the head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, Chogyam Trungpa. She told us that he used to laugh at his Western students, because we had such a hard time being okay with showing up as ourselves. “Stop apologizing for being born,” he would giggle.
Stop apologizing for being born. Stop it.
I heard this again in my head this afternoon, as I tried to recover my feeling of upliftedness. “Stop apologizing,” I told myself. “Stop it, Sarah. You don’t need to feel bad for being born.”
There is a primary lesson we learn in Shambhala, and it is that we are all born with basic goodness. We are taught in our meditation practice that this is the thing we can come back to when our experience gets sticky. It is something that the Buddha began to discover, somewhere between the fourth and sixth century B.C. It is an essential awareness that at our core is a fundamental positivity.
Even on our worst days, the base of who we are remains clear and just fine.
When we lean into this teaching, we understand that certain days will come and go. Moods change. Productivity increases and decreases. Happiness flourishes and dissipates. One thing that stays the same is that it is truly okay to be here as we are.
Underneath all our swirling personalities, thoughts, and emotions, there is an ever present experience of aliveness—of something good.
When we remember this, it becomes acceptable to show up with our grumpy pants on and all.
The Buddha would not want us to be sorry for being born. He would want us to always remember that we are here with a purpose.
If we spent less time hiding ourselves, imagine how it would free us up to make more of a difference in the world.
We don’t need to wait to feel perfect to be of use.
As we become comfortable doing this, maybe the vulnerability that we all so desperately try to cover up could be revealed. Perhaps then, we would begin to celebrate (rather then apologize for) the sweetness of being born human on planet Earth.
Author: Sarah Norrad
Image: Flickr/G V
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
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