dukkha


walking-buddha-and-profile

This morning with sleepy eyes, I read a helpful article, courtesy of Facebook.  Not all articles I read are helpful but this one was.  It was basically very simple, 3 Buddhist beliefs (there’s always 3, or 7 or 10 principles that can magically transform your life but these 3, I liked) that could speak to us all universally, regardless if we practiced Buddhism in our lives or not.  Last night my heart was heavy when I went to bed, but I held on to the knowing that had proven true in the past — in that nothing stays the same and all things shift.  Sometimes clichés, tediously over-used as they can be, do offer some solace.  So this morning I did indeed awake to a lighter sense of being, and it wasn’t because I hadn’t had breakfast yet; I don’t normally anyway, not till I get in to work.  But it was lighter because I read this helpful article.  Carrie, I think, shared it on her Facebook page.

Anyway, the article.  It talked about life, this glorious thing called LIFE; it being painful and causes suffering.  Dukkha as it’s known.  A word used by Buddhists, but not just Buddhists as it is also used by many others in their own languages. It isn’t saying, albeit pessimistically, that life is suffering, so end of and deal with it.  I told someone recently that I’ve started this blog, started writing online and I told him that it was mostly about life, love and bastards!  I laughed a little when I said it and I could hear the smile in his voice.  He said ‘well, that’s life isn’t it?!’ I guess he’s right, to an extent.  It is not ALL there is to life, no, I’d like to believe there are good things too.  But it is the acceptance of the more challenging emotions and experiences, that makes life, life.

Loss, anxiety, sadness, heartache, they appear and then disappear, only to reappear again. Like a trusted friend. Like a familiar shadow. Like a bad smell.  So I know this.  Yet I suffer. Why? I’m not just a sucker for punishment.  I don’t find happiness in my unhappiness so I ask myself why.   Why does society suffer with difficult emotions?  Why was Prozac nation born?  Why hasn’t it died? Why do we avoid or supress difficult emotions with anything we can get our hands on – fluoxetine, Ritalin, Paxil, Citalopram, Xanax, Valium, pinot, shiraz, merlot, crack, popcorn etc.?  We actually end up creating even more suffering in our lives by trying to avoid or suppress these troubling emotions that cause us to suffer so. We know all this but yet we reach out for things that suppress these troubling feelings; to numb ourselves, to medicate, to not feel.

So yes, our lives are inevitably filled with things we rather not go through, but we can’t stop it, well not permanently anyway.  All fixes are quick fixes and the results merely fleeting. Maybe, just maybe, there’s nothing to fear? Society in large is partly to be blamed for the idea that life should be easy and pain free. When I say society, I am referring to the media, pharmaceutical companies, fashion magazines, cosmetic surgeries, cosmetic surgeons, reality TV, them lot.  The ones who try and brainwash you in thinking that you are one messed up individual but HEY, YOU CAN BE FIXED FOR A PRICE!  And for those of us who buy that, who believe that, and on a level we all do and more so when we are alone and vulnerable and in a dark place, we therefore think if we are not experiencing the ‘good life’ then we must be broken.  I must be broken.  I must be flawed, messed up on some deep, unrepairable, level.

But then again society is also made up of You and Me (and Marley). The ones who care and think deeply about stuff and who want to do some good with the time we have on this planet and be kind not just to ourselves, but to each other.

So to the person who told me that writing about life, love and … is, well, part of life, I thank you!  You may never see this but I’d like to say that I don’t fear these things any-more.  I don’t fear (not as much) my suffering nor seek answers where they can’t be found because all of this futile attempts keeps me in a hole I have no wish to spend my life in. I have learnt, I continue to learn.  I am not buying into the idea that I’m broken (neither are you by the way).  I’m trying to accept life on its terms, trusting that life is always in the right because deep down, in spite of what I may think, feel or wish for, life IS in the right.  And one day I’ll know why and how this is true.  But one day is a long way away.  I need something now.  So for today I’ll remind myself to say hello to imperfection, give a nod to the things unresolved, open my heart to uncertainty and try not to close off, to live with my many questions that reside in my heart. I hear Rilke’s words of wisdom whisper quietly to me now as I type this.  So I’ll end with his words that have helped me.  I have his quote on a fridge magnet.  It’s on my fridge (!) and has been for the last 13 years.  I am no poet, no Rilke, nor writer, but I must say that damn, it has felt good to get all of this stuff, onto a page (or two). If you’re still here with me, thank you for your company. I wish you well.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

my heart


Photo taken by contributor Carrie Hilgert, a photographer and portrait artist in her thirties from Northeast Kansas who was recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. After venturing into digital photography, she became interested in documenting her life with self portraits. This became particularly helpful when her life started to fall apart due to depression. All her other creative outlets left her, but she could always process her very dark feelings with self portraits. While she is doing much better now, she maintains compassion for those going through these hard things and hopes that her photography can give an honest insight into something that makes most people feel very isolated and alone.

About this photo:

“This photo is titled ‘Can You Feel the Beat of My Heart Beat Through Me?’ This is from a series on fear and uncertainty. Fear seems to be a recurring theme in my life, no matter how hard I fight it. Fear of abandonment, of not being noticed, of my mental illness consuming me, of what people will think if they see the real me, of losing my creativity and worst, of getting to the end of my life without having let all of the wonderful things inside me come out. This shot is about that heartbeat that is crying to come out. The passion that is breaking through the shell I built for most of my life..”

Find more from Carrie at her blog or flickr.

My Heart.

a life once lived


Once upon a time, a long, long, while ago, there lived a woman, who appeared (to herself at least), to know what she wanted to do and be.

She was sure to an extent and secure in the knowledge of the road she was on; the course she was pursuing and the many clinical placements she found herself juggling along-side a full time job. It was all worth it, she thought.  It was all going to be so good, so worth the sacrifices. And besides, it was good to be kept busy, to BE busy.  To be occupied all the time.

It made her feel like she was living a ‘useful’ life and that perhaps life did have some meaning after all.

And so this pursuit of clinical work, clients, psychotherapy in hospitals and prisons went on for five years.  FIVE years.  Even on Saturdays.  What was this woman thinking?? What she doing to herself?  Oh yes, finding meaning. Doing her bit for others.  ‘Helping’ others help themselves.  So this woman listened to stories, to so many stories.

Stories that were never simple nor straight-forward. Stories that others chose to share with her; the funny and the sad; the simple and the intricate; stories that have been filled with light and stories that have been blacker than the darkest night. And in the listening she had her beliefs, prejudices and clichés stretched and challenged. She struggled to let them go; to dissolve, to melt, to reshape. It is easier to stay with what one knows after all.

This woman is me.  She is still me.  And she lives on, today.

But the person I am today is some one who does not know where the road is leading.  The person I am today is very different from the woman who thought she knew.

And I think I have come to accept (through much fighting and struggling) that it is OK not to know.

That life is very rarely level-headed or clear.

And plans never seem to work anyway.

So it’s OK not to have one, I think?

Sometimes nothing is clear.

I have had to let go of this need that things ‘should’ make sense for they don’t, not always at least.

Sometimes never.

Sometimes there is no meaning to why things happen the way they do.

So here I am today, at this precise point in my life in place of unknown, of uncertainty.  I know this place very well now.  The fog has become familiar.

Yet, I long for the day when the fog lifts, if only a little, to show me what’s on the other side, so that I see clearly again and am able to do what it is I need to do with my life.

I wish you all much Light, amidst the fog and darkness.

candle light

Be kind to yourselves.