Wednesday, February 20, 2008


If I could distill all the great writings on suffering down to a few words, I would simply say that suffering and crisis transform us, humble us, and bring out what matters most in life.” Elizabeth Lesser

What matters most in life? That question that rages in me as I sit here, feeling blue, feeling as if the things that matter most to me right now are trivial things: getting the location of the nearest store that has a Wii in stock, figuring out how to generate income (yes, right now that seems trivial), writing this piece, and finding a way to sit still long enough to breathe…to feel joy! Ah, that’s it for me. Joy matters most.

Okay, I found the quote I referenced before: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius

I have a Word document that’s filled with quotes. I use them as uplifting mantras when I feel the need for outside intervention. Reflecting on this piece, which could be called “Inspiration” as well as “Rising” I spent almost twenty minutes getting uplifted by what I found in that word doc.

Considering suffering I get that sense that I am just starting on my journey, I am just now learning how to learn. I remember hearing that this journey gets longer as you progress on it. The more you know the more you realize there is to know…but you shouldn’t be daunted by that. In fact you should be open to it. Being open isn’t about knowing so much as it is about experiencing things, making the connections between what you’ve been told and what you actually go through. Without processing through the litany of experiences I’ve had, I can say I have known the joys of falling and then rising.

At times, I greedily tried to hold onto joy, tried to increase it even but one begins to understand that: “Only angels know unrelieved joy-or are able to stand it.” Ernest Becker.

Okay, I’m just playing with words now, how clever? But what am I truly trying to uncover? And, just as importantly, what can I say here that would be at all meaningful?

Well, here are some more words I found in an article on Buddhist meditation, from Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, “…We might not understand that cheerfulness is in fact an inherent quality of mind. Within the meditative tradition, cheerfulness is considered to be the natural, harmonious and wholesome expression of our truest self.”


Okay, I’m equating joy with cheerfulness, gimme that for now, alright?

Recently I completed a purpose-work course with my teacher, mentor, and friend Melissa M. who has whispered wisdom to me for almost ten years now. We spent six months examining the roots of our being, the quests that each of us are on, and, happily, forming a community of both reflection and support for one another. In spite of some rather unpleasant emotional turmoil that I have been going through the entire class describes me as someone who brings joy…interestingly, after the class ended, we traded singular words among ourselves. Pardon this self-indulgence, but I was alternately described as: audacious, warm, delicious, beaming, etc.

But, back to the question: what am I trying to uncover here?

I know, me, just basic me. I don’t know if any of those words could describe me. Sometimes they are just things that ramble around in my consciousness; confusing shades of a ‘me’ that really have no definition. Rather they get in my way, my attaching to them in any way leads me away from joy, from cheerfulness.

The article on Buddhist meditation says simply that when we create space in our minds we find that natural cheerfulness. Create space, what a concept! For me this is a perpetual journey, something that requires me to be persistent in this ‘feng shui’ of my mind’s space, clearing the clutter of daily life, sweeping the insatiable desire for life’s pleasures and distractions out the door. Hiding my disappointments in the dark corners or the shadows lurking just beyond my awareness I find that which I resist the most.


What others have seen of me, what I feel in those moments of reflection and, more importantly, in those moments of picking myself up and dusting myself off-the joy in me, that’s all I need to carry. What matters most to me is me, being alive! I can’t healthfully deal with much else without an emotional enema every few days. I needed to suffer to know I was alive, to know I was human. That was what I believed. That was what I thought the world needed of me…

That and playing whatever role I needed to play at the appropriate time. Now that I think of it, playing those roles was a part of my suffering, of my falling down, regardless of whatever joy they may have brought to others. Or even to me.

"Don't ask what the world needs. Find out what makes you come alive, and go do that. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." Howard Thurman

Quotes, exercising, writing, meditations…all good, but…

All these tools I have explored are, as a new friend wrote me, ways my soul can access and demonstrate its persistence in the face of my life’s challenges. But it’s me that rises. Grace may fill me, and hopefully it will always be there when I need it. But I can count on ‘me’, even after I’ve let myself down. I can always rise. Because, even without the exact words for it, I can tell you I know that I am alive and I don’t have to suffer to prove it.

1 comment:

miss shirley said...

I learned recently that the ability - no the inevitability of rising is something you wish you could express to someone when they start to fall, but they won't know until they find it out (or remember it) themselves. Reading this reminded me that finding it out yourself is part of the process.