April 25, 2008

Feel the Yearn

At the gym this morning I did the unthinkable - I grabbed a magazine to read on the stair master: Oprah's magazine. But for once, rather than the usual savage beating such magazines normally bestow, I was rewarded this time. Oprah had interviewed Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun. Her point is this - we humans often have complaints and discomfort with our lives as they are and we are constantly seeking a 'fix' for our problems. What if we could (I'm paraphrasing here) develop a passion for our lives as they are, rather than reserving our passion for the life we imagine we would rather have?

"The problem is that we have so little tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. I'm not even talking about unpleasant outer circumstances but for that feeling in your stomach that—or heart—that I don't want this to be happening."
And the solution? Feel the feeling, rather than dismissing it or medicating it away. Stay with it. Hold its hand, because it's what we have in common with other humans. It's what allows us to be compassionate with them even when they're behaving badly. My particular uncomfortable feeling is the yearning itself - I grow exceedingly weary of wishing for things to be different - different job, different hair, different wardrobe, a home, a sense of security, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

As I was driving home from the gym I listened to radio story about a special law in Colorado that makes it easier to charge juveniles as adults - a reaction to Denver's "Summer of Violence" in 1993. The interviewees were chock full of explanations and excuses on the prosecution side, questions and demands for accountability on the defense side. No one discussed compassion, because hey, that's a trigger word that would instantly label the argument as woo-woo and dismiss it as irrelevant.

Maybe it really is irrelevant. Compassion isn't something we can impose on ourselves or on other people. I've often admonished myself to "be compassionate," but if you have to admonish yourself, is it real? Wouldn't that be mere 'acting?' Yes, and it's fake - we can't know how to "act" compassionately if we don't experience real compassion in ourselves. We can't impose it on ourselves. But that's how we're most comfortable - we think if we buy the right product or repeat the right words in the right order, we'll feel better. Sooooooothing, isn't it.


The Immoral Matriarch said...

Buddhists have nuns?
Hmmm...I did not know that...

donzell said...


Here are some of the reasons why I love my job:
1. The stories - you just cannot make up the stuff that I get to see and hear everyday,

2. The challenge - Simply put, I love a good fight, and I love having to fight with nothing, but sheer gile on my side.

3. Helping others - I like helping others.