By Ruth Lera
Nobody is perfect.
We all know that, but still we don’t like it.
I didn’t like being terribly imperfect during those years when I worked in a challenging job as a Family Support Worker for Social Services and came home stressed and exhausted to my family each and everyday fists raised, mouth yelling. It was a demanding position connecting me to struggling families and burnt out social workers.
My days involved disagreements with co-workers and horror stories of child abuse. And when I would come home to my family at the end of the day I would constantly lose my temper. I would tell them that dinner wasn’t cooked right, complain that the dishes hadn’t been washed and curse about the toys all over the house. I was loud and disapproving and an all-around jerk to everyone in my household all because I didn’t know how to come back to my center.
Actually, I didn’t even know I had a center; I just felt an emotion and then got completely swept away by it.
In my short life I have spent a great amount of my time crying, yelling and complaining. I have spent all too much time caught up in the idea that I wasn’t good enough, didn’t have enough resources in my life and that just around the corner immediate failure was inevitable
It is really quite scary to feel so scared all the time, isn’t it?
That is why spiritual development, meditation, mindfulness and healing can hold such a sense of appeal because they seem like a way out of this whole painful and frightening human mess.
You mean there is a way not to feel so crazy and out of control all the time? Sign me up most of us instantly say.
But what people find out if they sit meditation for even a few minutes is that spiritual development and meditation are not a way out of ourselves at all but instead are a means to come more fully into ourselves. Meditation takes us more fully into the truth of our own craziness. This is one of the things we can learn from the life of the Buddha.
Pema Chodron explains it like this:
“The idea that the Buddha was completely chilled out and didn’t experience emotion simply isn’t true. When the Buddha achieved enlightenment, he learned to be settled with all of those feelings coursing through him.”
For a long time I never cared about being settled. I cared about being true to what I was feeling. I was against repression and was all about expression and if I felt something then I had to go with it. But was I really going with the emotion or was I being dragged along by a conditional behavioural pattern that was leading me deeper into unnecessary pain?
It is really hard to tell.
But where meditation practice has brought me now is to a place of contemplating the question “What is the point of not being settled? Of not being connected to my own center?”
All I have to do is notice how I act when I’m overcome with emotion to know it isn’t working out well for me. When I go with the flow of feeling, I become impatient with the people I love. When I’m unsettled I lash out, blame, criticize and judge.
I am horrible to myself, as well at these times. My inner voices tell me that I’ve screwed up and that my future is going to be grim. But instead when emotion strikes, and I intentionally return to that centered place within myself that I have become familiar with through meditation, I can simply observe my human life.
I become not a person at risk but a soul having a fascinating adventure, a soul learning and growing with every bend and turn.
From center I can be curious, open and willing to give every moment the benefit of the doubt that all is going to turn out well. The trouble is that no one else can tell you where center is. There is no map and no “x marks the spot” for that place inside each of us where we feel settled. We have to find it ourselves.
“Like the Buddha, you can come to know your own energy, and you can feel quite settled with it. You become intimate with your own energy, and it no longer rules your life. Your conditioning doesn’t go away, but it no longer controls you.”
For me each time I fly off the handle, go down the drain, lose myself and think I will never find myself again, I am reminded that my personal form of conditioning is here to stay.
It is not disposable. I’m not going to be able to throw my bumpy self away and become as still as a rock.
I am often going to shake and quiver with each new storm.
But I am also at times going to be able to make a choice to steer away from the shore of misery where habitual fear and anger lie and paddle my boat to the middle of the lake and sit on the island of wholeness.
What I am saying is that I can connect to center if I choose to.
It is all my choice.
Maybe I will see you there?
Ruth Lera is the friend you turn to when your world has gone all topsy-turvy. Not because she tells you it’s all going to be alright but because she reassures you that not being alright is just part of the whole process of being human. And she might even give you some ideas about how to feel better, too. Find her at her website, her Facebook page or Twitter.
Editor: dana Gornall