- About Us
- What We Offer
- Podcasts & Video
The suffering of seasonal allergies, the sacredness of snot
Submitted by Nancy Thompson on Sun, 5/15/2011, 11:13am
In meditation, we learn to be fully aware of the sensations of the present moment: the cool breeze that skims our skin, the quality of light through the filling-in leaf canopy, the subtle slowing of post-nasal drip at the back of our throats as the decongestant kicks in. Or, if you prefer the neti pot, the open spaciousness of newly rinsed sinus cavities and the salty taste at the back of your throat, like you’ve taken in a snort of sea water when you dived into an oncoming wave.
Seasonal allergies are usually equated with suffering – particularly this year, with the pollen count in Connecticut approaching 9,000 parts per cubic meter of air. The pollen count is considered “very serious” at 1,500.
Buddhism teaches that suffering is due to a desire for things to be other than they are in the current moment. If we can give up hoping and wishing and praying that things would change so we can be happy, we can find true, lasting contentment with things as they are. Pema Chodron says that if we give up all hope of “alternatives to the present moment, we can have a joyful relationship with our lives, an honest, direct relationship."
Is it possible to appreciate seasonal allergies, to see the stuffy head, sneezing, and itchy eyes as the road to enlightenment?
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Chodron’s teacher and the found of the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, said the physical world and the senses open a door to the present moment. You are seeing, smelling, and tasting life as it is happening. And if you remove judgments and look at the world with curiosity rather than pre-conceived notions about what makes something beautiful or ugly, sacred or mundane, you can see that such adjectives – which appear to be opposites – are simply extreme forms of the same thing.
Any perception can connect us to reality properly and fully. What we see doesn't have to be pretty, particularly. We can appreciate anything that exists. There is some principle of magic in everything, some living quality. Something living, something real is taking place in everything. When we see things as they are, they make sense to us: the way the leaves move when they are blown by the wind, the way rocks get wet when there are snowflakes sitting on them. We see how things display their harmony and chaos at the same time. So we are never limited by beauty alone, but we appreciate all side of reality properly. CTR
That lovely flower? It has bugs, and if you look closely it’s beginning to rot. But those bugs have an order and almost architectural beauty to the way they move. And how do so many fit in that bloom? Awe-some. And that rotting red pepper in the compost? A feast for the senses.
For an unsacred authority here, consider the band Dillinger Four’s advice – Celebrate the ugly things.
Look at anything without filters, with a curious open mind, and you can see everything there: beauty, ugliness, new life, impermanence, inexplicable order, utter randomness.
Observe your breath. Really, really observe it. How deep does it go? How well does it flow? How deeply can you breathe without coughing? How far does your diaphragm expand? Does the in-breath make your throat hurt? The forceful cough? What muscles are you using? Is your core up to this, or will it get an unaccustomed workout? Could you trademark that and make some bucks?
And what does that do? It lets you step out of the overall allergy experience, to see it as a collection of assorted experiences that ebb and flow. What makes it better? What makes it worse? Can you prefer to do the things that make you feel better and avoid the ones that make you feel worse? Yes. Just notice what happens as it happens.
The bum's as holy as the seraphim! the madman is
holy as you my soul are holy!
The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is
holy the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy!
Holy Peter holy Allen holy Solomon holy Lucien holy
Kerouac holy Huncke holy Burroughs holy Cas-
sady holy the unknown buggered and suffering
beggars holy the hideous human angels!
You can hear Ginsberg read it here. This section starts at 3:28. (Apologies for the link, but I couldn't get the embed code to work.)
Vote for this article to appear in the Recommended list.