"To the extent that we stop struggling against uncertainty and ambiguity, to that extent we dissolve our fear."
This year, as part of my Sacred Journey journal, I have decided to have a 'contemplation of the week'. This is simply a quotation that I have read somewhere that I write out on the page entitled, 'Blessings, Gifts and Strengths'. I try to think about it and keep it tucked away in the back of my consciousness all week. My contemplation for this week comes from Pema Chodron's book, The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times.
It seems like everything we do in our lives is part of the struggle against uncertainty and ambiguity. We don't know what's coming in the future, we don't even really understand what is happening right now, so we are afraid. We spend all our time planning and scheming. We try to set things up so that we can prevent the unknown from happening. We somehow feel that a constant low-level sense of dread will pay the cosmic forces to hold bad things at bay. We know this doesn't make any sense, but we do it anyway. When we aren't trying to prevent what we fear the future may hold, we are busy trying to distract ourselves from the uncertainty of right now. We watch TV. We go shopping. We manage to move mechanically through entire days or even weeks without really thinking about anything. To think about things is painful, so we keep moving. This is dukkha, as I understand it.
Dukkha is an important Buddhist concept, which has no direct translation into English. The traditional translation is 'suffering.' Thich Nhat Hanh translates it as 'ill-being'. But dukkha encompasses so much more than these translations. It is an entire web of emotions that lead ultimately to feeling unsatisfied and lost: disturbance, irritation, dejection, worry, despair,dread, anguish, anxiety; vulnerability, injury, inability, inferiority; sickness, aging, decay of body and faculties, senility; pain/pleasure; excitement/boredom; deprivation/excess; desire/frustration, suppression; longing/aimlessness; hope/hopelessness; effort, activity, striving/repression; loss, want, insufficiency/satiety; love/lovelessness, friendlessness; dislike, aversion/attraction; submission/rebellion; decision/indecisiveness, vacillation, uncertainty. Notice that there are some 'good' things in that list. They're there because they also lead to dukkha. When we realise, as we soon do, that the good things are not permanent,that there is no way to hold on to them, that leads us back to dukkha. We fear getting what we don't want and losing what we do want. We dread. That's dukkha.
The Buddha said, 'There are three forms of stressfulness (dukkha), my friends. The stressfulness of pain, the stressfulness of fabrication, and the stressfulness of change. These are the three forms of stressfulness.' He was right, you know. All our fear comes from pain (physical or mental), from our own imagination, and from change of any kind. You cannot escape any of these things!
There is only one way out of dukkha. It is to accept that there is no way out of dukkha. Stop fighting it. Stop dreaming up wild imaginings about it. Stop running from it. It's there, it's real, it's right behind you and it ain't going away. Unless you turn around and embrace it.
'To the extent that we stop struggling against uncertainty and ambiguity, to that extent do we dissolve our fear.'
This is not defeatist. This is empowerment.
ON A LIGHTER NOTE...
Today I'm wearing one of my less successful fitness purchases. I got them in May 2005 when my friend, Morandia, was visiting. Oh, how I wanted them! I was sure they were going to make a huge difference in my life and rid me of cellulite forever. It's a pair of MBTs! I hardly ever wear them because I feel a bit silly in them. I see them all over in London, but in my neck of the woods, I just look like Frankenstein's stepmother. There are so many styles out now, but when I got mine there were only a few to choose from. Here's what they look like:
Actually, I thought then--and still think now--that they are cute. Too bad I've got size 6 feet, or they'd be even cuter. And I have to admit they are fun to walk in; they sort of send you bounding along.
One reason I don't wear them much is I got stuck wearing them on a LONG train journey when I was forced to stand because there were no seats available, and standing in these shoes really works the calves and shins. And that long journey was after I'd spent a weekend tramping all over London in them, so my legs were already pretty sore. It's made me afraid to stray too far from home in them for fear I'd be stuck like that again. But to be honest, I'm much fitter now and don't think it'd be that big an ordeal. Plus I could always carry an extra pair of shoes in that voluminous ruck sack thing I'm always schlepping around with me.
Another reason I don't wear them much is I often forget I've got them, lurking in the top of the closet! Must wear them this summer until the wretched things fall apart and I will have got my money's worth out of them! Right now I'm wearing them to meet DH at the train station!
May all beings be at ease.