Sunday, February 8

Turn on the Light

Mellow Minimalism


Undecided Yellowness

Being Present

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) – Dumbledore (Michael Gambon)

A family member who seldom grumbles or expresses her anger blew a gasket the other day.  She had just gotten off the phone with an old friend.

"She's always asking questions:  what'd I have for breakfast; did I sleep well last night; have I gotten my flu shots.  My god!  Does she think she's my mother? " she fumed.

I proceeded to reprogram her TV remote, the true cause for her frustration I thought, and mumbled something like, "Oh, she just cares about you, Bea."

"I think she must be bored.  I know I'd be bored if all I could talk about is how wonderful it is to sit in my back yard and watch the birds, for gawd's sake," and before she got much further with that complaint, a light went on for me.  Bea does not enjoy simply sitting and watching.  She must be talking, moving, entertaining, finding drama wherever it may lurk.  A quiet moment with the birds and bees, or taking a few minutes to focus on breathing, or any contemplation minus chatter is boring, non-productive and a bit scary.  Noise, rummaging, arranging are only three of the grenades she lobs at the dark loneliness and fatigue lurking around the edges of life.  

And, Bea is not the only one that uses furious activity to drive out the unhappiness that is a necessary part of life.  I do too.  Most of us fight boredom and weariness with even more boring and un-conscious doings.  We resist the suffering life delivers.  We shun it.  We banish it.  We bury it with mindless games, clutter, chatter, unfortunate habits.  I overeat, under exercise and binge read like a trained seal at the least inkling of conflict or pain.  Others drink - use - multitask - shop - run like rats in a maze and, like me, criticize others for their frailties at the drop of a hat.

The Buddhist Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh discussed the concept of embracing suffering as the only way to find peace in this hard world.

"I would not like to go to a place where there is no suffering.  I would not want to send my children to a place where there is no suffering.  Without suffering you have no way to learn how to be understanding and compassionate.  The kingdom of God is a place where there is understanding and compassion, and, therefore, suffering should exist."

He further explains that the fear, hatred and violence we see in our world may not be diminishing, but rather than despair and give up the notion of a non-violent, harmonious world, we begin the peace process with ourselves.  We do the work to become mindful, to notice the miracle of life, and let that wonder become a tangible peace.  We become the eye of the hurricane, the calm center, embracing and directing the energy as it completes its natural cycle.

"Do you think your friend is healthy, Bea?" I asked.

"Oh yes.  She never gets sick."

"Maybe watching the birds and caring about you keeps her healthy," I mused out loud and Bea paused for a moment, shook her head, and finished sorting and folding her laundry.