Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Reasons to be Happy

(With apologies to Neil LaBute)



I've been thinking about this quote a lot the past few days.  My moods have been a bit up and down - I can go from cool, self-assured calm about the whole injury situation one minute, to a flurry of worry and anxiety and self pity the other, as the uncertainty about how the healing process will go after the cast comes off weighs on me.

If you ask me the things I'm grateful for, the things I really value and treasure in my life, one of them would be my physical fitness.  My health, my (relative, at this point) youth.  My energy.  My New York paced walk.  My ability to run.  I still have some of those things, of course, but in this temporary situation, I feel more like an ancient slug, with an aching lower back and pain all through my right hip and foot as it bears my weight.

So, how do you avoid the self-pity trap?  It's normal to feel sad and frustrated, and I don't think it would be wise or healthy to suppress those emotions when they come up, but you can't let them drive and you can't let them settle in.

There's got to be a deeper reason for joy, or even just a deeper sense of peace and equanimity that surpasses your life circumstances.  Your relationships, your job, even your health.  Life is nothing but change, as my mom reminded me recently.  This too, shall pass, applies to everything in life - the good, the bad, the indifferent.

The concepts of impermanence and non-attachment are important ones in the practice of yoga.  The idea of practicing, of having a meditative practice, is to hold to that center at your very core, to have a certain amount of equanimity to keep you from getting swept up in the waves of good and bad that live washes over you.

The best example of this, of course, is the tradition of the Sand Mandala among Tibetan Buddhist monks.  Pouring your attention, work, and presumably your heart into making something painstakingly beautiful...and then gently destroying it.  I don't think a lot of us would be capable of that.  (Though I have destroyed some rather ugly creations in my adventures in knitting that I've felt quite attached to...)

Then do we achieve the equanimity just to go around being robots?  Or do we detach emotionally from the circumstances and find joy anyway?  I don't know if equanimity really is achievable, though I'm sure some spiritual masters have probably claimed to have it.  Enlightenment, equanimity - they're cousins, I think, in the spiritual family.

I had a hard time, as a lot of Western yogis do, wrapping my brain around the benefits of detachment.  It's hard not to view it as something that means you love less, care less, feel less.  But it's really just about not letting these changeable, impermanent, outside circumstances so deeply penetrate the core of your being to the point that they can overtake and overwhelm you - for good or for bad.

I'm nowhere near the level of having achieved any sort of high-level equanimity or enlightenment, but I am working very hard to be in the circumstances I'm in and to find some happiness anyway.  Suffering is caused by not accepting the present circumstances.  It doesn't mean by accepting you just roll over and give up - you can still work to change your circumstances.  But until you accept things as they are, you'll never know peace.  So why not be happy on the lifelong journey?

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