When not much is left

Yesterday, after listening to me elaborate on a list of unrelenting dark things that have been going on in my life, my therapist seemed, for the first time, stumped.

“Hm,” she said. “Have you ever studied Buddhism?”

In over 20 years of therapy situations, I have never, ever, ever had anyone suggest religion before. Rainer Maria Rilke, yes. Sleep, good eating habits, exercise, medication, yes. But religious reading? This was new.

That’s not to say that Buddhism is new to me. I poked at it, curious, in my early 20s. I read the books and embraced some of the thoughts, but didn’t understand as much as I could have. I’m not sure I had the tools to do so.

So, I decided to give it a go. I started with a familiar name – Thich Nhat Hanh – and, from my desk at work, decided to seriously consider this suggestion from a woman who has helped me immensely. Before a couple of months ago, I would have said my life was on track to be awesome. Now, I feel resigned to a life that is barely tolerable, a life from which I would have told anyone else to run screaming.

But living in the present moment is a skill I can cultivate – and it might benefit me to do so during this period when I just don’t know how life is going to turn out. I feel dark and raw and emptied of love – a perfect candidate for some help from outside.

So today, I am thinking about this:

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.

From a book I haven’t read, regarding a subject about which I know very little – yet, there is something thought provoking here.

I was comfortable enough with my life, before, even though I missed my family and friends and resented my city and my job. I was comfortable enough because I had hope – I felt that the future was developing, that there was something to be gained by doing what I was doing.

I don’t feel that any more – I don’t feel like there is much to be gained at all. Hope is severely battered, if not in a coma or dead, and so the present moment turns unbearable. The daily commute, the job I hate, the husband who is beyond my helping. The faraway friends, the faraway family, the death of a loved one, the 5-year-old nephew in an intensive care unit 2,500 miles away. These were things I could organize, put into manageable boxes. But now, I am drowning. Perhaps I am drowned.

I see no way to get back to hope, not right now. So today’s thoughts must center around something that is not so future-oriented. I will think on this, then:

The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.

That may be more advanced than I am ready for, but it is a thought to mull. I will do this. I will try.

 

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2 Comments

Filed under buddhism

2 responses to “When not much is left

  1. oh, i can feel your pain through your writing. from one new-bu to perhaps another, i encourage you to study and embrace this philosophy. take from buddhism what makes you feel happy and peaceful, but give it time. pain and fear are intrusive and difficult, but not nearly as strong as your ever-loving spirit. with discipline and focus, the love will prevail. as you’ve probably learned, thich nhat hanh is an amazing teacher and terrific inspiration. his books speak to those living a *real* life. he’s one smart cookie. peace, peace, peace.

  2. Thank you for your kind, thoughtful words. I appreciate it more than you could know! I’m definitely planning to actually read one or two of his books (not just read *about* them) and figure out where to go from here. Any advice is (always) appreciated! Be well…

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