I had a heart opening teaching at Sangha last night that was like a light bulb turning on very brightly. I love when those moments happen. We are having Dharma lessons and discussions on the 4 Noble Truths. Last night the focus was on the first Noble Truth which is suffering. In my experience many people that do not practice Buddhism have heard of this one and interpret what they have heard as Buddhist believe that all of life is suffering. This is not true. We do acknowledge that suffering has many contexts and it happens. We recognize it as part of this life. I actually find some peace and freedom in this acknowledgement. It means I no longer have to pretend and that despite the Western ideal that everything is good or supposed to be good all of the time I can say no that is not true and that is ok. I wish everyone could feel the weight being lifted when we understand and believe that we have the freedom and the right to feel bad, scream and cry. We also have the ability to identify the cause of our suffering and to do something to change it and find the path that leads us away from it so that we do not dwell in it.
Out Sangha teacher gave an analogy that struck a chord in me pretty heavy and that I cannot get out of my head. She heard it said that suffering is like an arrow. The first one comes and we were possibly blindsided by it but the next ones come by our own doing. Reliving the cause of our suffering is like shooting another arrow in ourselves. We need to find its' nature and let it be. This quote by our teacher Tich Nhat Hanh sums up the most beautiful way I have found to deal with my own suffering. “Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” So much suffering occurs as a result of living in the past and straining for the future. It does not make sense to look backwards while moving forward or to look to what has not happened yet to make things better right now. I know that I long for my husband deeply and in my times of deep suffering I mourn what might or could have been if Paul was still of this physical world. I have had to try to let go of the dreams we shared as husband and wife for our lives together. Just typing that causes me pain. I have to do it though because I am still here and I have a life to live. I do not want to feel bad and cry all of the time. I do admit that there are times when that is all I want to do. Oddly, it is comforting. It is real. There is truth in it that is liberating but that truth also exists in me moving forward and seeing the beauty of everyday. It honors Paul and our life together as well as myself and my life now.
Without my Zen Buddhist practice I could not have made it after Paul died. I did not have the belief in myself that it has giving me. I am so grateful to Paul for deciding that we were going to find a spiritual path that fit us and taking me to our first Sangha gathering in Kansas City. It changed our lives for the better forever. In good times and in bad I am committed to this practice because I am committed to myself. This is the path that leads me away from suffering.