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Be Less Sadderish!

Oh man, I did not want to write this today.  I woke up this morning with a very bad case of life is horrific and awful.  I did not think I could possibly come up with something beneficial to offer the world.  This is not a story of overcoming those feelings.

The first class I attended at IDP was taught by Ethan Nichtern, and the discussion was centered around Pema Chödrön’s book When Things Fall Apart.  During one of the classes, Ethan said something in passing (though I do not remember his exact words) that in all its darkness resonates with me right now:  suicide is not the answer to suffering because you cannot escape your suffering that way. 

Feelings of sadness and loneliness are crafty and intelligent.  They are resistant to phrases like, “Cheer up,” or, “Things will get better,” or “Meditate and it will disappear.”  Dark feelings feel more than any other type of emotion permanent.  As Buddhism teaches us, nothing is permanent; say that to me when I am really sad, and my sadness deepen and become sharper--my sadness is smarter than that.

But there are so many things in Buddhism that my darkest thoughts and feelings cannot resist.  The idea that suicide will not stop suffering silences many of my sad thoughts and feelings.  I am going to have to deal with all of the clutter in my mind at some point: whether in this life or the next, it is me and me facing off on the meditation cushion.  Why does that make sense?  Do I have a deeply developed understanding of karma and reincarnation?  No.  It just makes sense.  There is no escape.  Yeah.  That seems right.  Does that make me feel better?  No.  But things are clearer.

In a recent blog post on this website, Ethan presented this quote by Mingyur Rinpoche: “Ultimately, happiness comes down to choosing between the discomfort of being aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them.”  That is not “cheer up sad person.”  The quote makes it clear that life is pretty crappy: things suck or they suck.  But despite that perilous binary, I will would rather be aware of my thoughts than be ruled by them.  Why?  I don’t know.  It just seems right.

Ultimately there is no solution to feeling bad.  Buddhism does not offer me respite.  Meditation does not really either.  But time and again I read one sentence that just seems so right that no amount of mental gymnastics can combat it.

Do you have a favorite Buddhist phrase or expression that rings so true that you have never been able to argue against it?

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