In my twenties I would ask myself the question,’Why don’t I want this experience?’ At that time I really didn’t understand the importance of my query. It seemed so obvious, the one I didn’t want was painful. Why would I want to feel that?
The question haunts me now as I feel the pain of loss, the ending of my brief love affair. This relationship felt like a miracle. It came when I believed it could/would never happen. I am too old, too particular – unlikely I would find another who would mesh with me. Yet it did happen. I gave myself to its siren song and believed I could be in its warmth till the end of my days, but it was a shooting star illuminating the sky for only a moment.
My heart is hurting. I feel anguish and despair. I want this love! In clear moments I’m guessing it couldn’t sustain itself, would end at some point. But right now I want more time, a chance to make it work, to believe I could have this. To believe I am still loved and cherished.
I know enough through my Buddhist practice to look. Look at my body sensations, look at the thoughts that arise, the emotions moving through me, and the story I assign. My teacher tells me I have no choice which thoughts and feelings come. I know this is true. They come unbidden, unplanned. Bubbles rising to the surface, propelled by countless cycles of birth and death.
I see how I grab them, fan them with the flame of memory and wish for the future. I know in the moment they arise here is choice. Viktor Frankl writes, ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies the freedom to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.’ So what do I want to choose?
I ask myself, is it possible to celebrate the aliveness and not assign a value? Can I let these thoughts and feelings come, abide, dissolve? Here are the kleshas, the three poisons – ignorance, attachment, aversion. I want to hold to my version of how things should be. I don’t want the painful feelings. My reaction rises in the hard-to-let-go habit which wants to repeat the story of abandonment, I will always be left. This is my mud puddle. I sit in it – a small child, a teen, an adult. It is warm and familiar. I know this place.
How can I hold this experience and not make it solid, give it room to be fluid, not reject nor make it an identity? How can I see this is only habit and not a definition of who I am? The Buddha says,’ Suffering exists but no one who suffers.’ I understand this intellectually and maybe at times know it directly. Right now I am caught in the whirlpool of understanding and confusion. Caught in the swirling waters of ignorance, of holding onto a self who is hurting, where the emotions and their body sensations feel solid. I don’t see the moment to moment arising, the interdependence that brings this to fruition. I don’t see how I freeze-frame it into my suffering.
NVC says that when we don’t experience choice we must reject or submit. Hard to feel I have a choice. I’ve hard-wired this stimuli into my personal heartache.
Another piece of wisdom, act as if you chose it. I am kicking and screaming into this one. The best I can do is look. So I’m looking at my thoughts, my body sensations, the story I tell. It is like walking on the crumbling edge of a great canyon. I haven’t fallen so far that I can’t crawl out. I’d like to think there is steady ground somewhere. I suspect it is always balancing this edge and only an illusion that solid ground exists.
It’s good I get to work with my aversions. I don’t want this experience, but without it, I’d have to use the ones I do want.