Difficulties - Objects of Meditation
When life suddenly kicks us in the gut, we automatically react with surprise, aversion, anger, indignation - "Why me?" "Why now?" "What did I do to deserve this?". We may go through some or all of the five 'stages of grief': denial, anger, bargaining, depression & acceptance. Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking" offers fascinating insight into the surreal changes grief can bring about.
It's well-known that denial, suppression & avoidance can be helpful, even necessary short-term band-aids, but are major roadblocks in the long-run. It's only possible to make meaningful progress based on first clearly seeing exactly what's happening.
Anger can energize action - though the action is all too often reactive. Again, in the short-term, anger can facilitate beneficial action; but in the long-run, anger is invariably toxic.
Bargaining and depression are variants of avoidance - delays (or arrests) in maturation.
As soon as we accept reality - how things actually are (or were eg past trauma) - whether we like it or not, we can start again, and do what needs doing now, and now, and now...
Acceptance is not complacency. But as long as we hold aversion to, reject & deny reality, we're blocking out awareness of what we're actually dealing with, so how could we possibly deal with it skilfully?
Major trauma is not the only thing that we tend to judge as unacceptable. All of life's realities are more challenging than we realize. Sickness, aging & death are the obvious biggies. But at least subconsciously, we're always aware of the relentlessness of constant change. Here's an 80-year-old in conversation with her meditation teacher:
"I once mentioned to Joseph Goldstein, that the disappearing nature of all phenomena dismayed me.
'Look at all those just-past-their-prime roses outside the window,' I said. 'They are dying, and two days ago they were beautiful. It's so sad!'
'Transiency is what is true,' Joseph replied. 'Sad is just a story that you are telling yourself about it.'" Sylvia Boorstein. "Life at 80: Everything is Precious." Lion's Roar, March 2017.
When we completely accept reality, no matter how disagreeable, really "lean into" it with curiosity & an open heart-mind, our perspective shifts, allowing us to act more wisely, to decrease suffering and increase peace & real happiness for ourselves & others. Ultimately, our difficulties are our objects of meditation.
Edgar Ende, 1901 - 1965