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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Let dukkha "do what it do"...

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, or at least that's how the saying goes. A Shakespearean character asked the question, "Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?," and Mae West said that "too much of a good thing can be wonderful." Being a person who is given to over-indulgence, but also exceedingly self aware, I try to stay somewhere in the middle. (Or somewhere between moderation and indulgence.)

As I sit here alone on a Saturday night, I keep trying to remind myself of the concept of dukkha that I absorbed from Buddhism. All phenomena are impermanent. When the reality set in that tonight would be an evening of solitude, I found myself surprised that I wasn't happy with it. I had become so accustomed to it before, so much so that I preferred it.

That feeling started when I was talking to my "romantic interest" and he informed me that we wouldn't get to talk tonight because he was going to see a movie and had to run errands. My first thought was, "but we didn't get to talk last night." Thankfully I didn't utter that desperate remark, but I was alarmed by the fact that I would even think that.

I thought about "Sitting with Unsatisfactoriness" as the title for this post but decided that a little twist of the urban phrase "let it do what it do" would be better. When it all comes down to it, there isn't a better way to look it this situation and just about every situation.

Dukkha is a Buddhist term, meaning unsatisfactoriness, misery, suffering, dissatisfaction, etc. The concept is central to the Four Noble Truths, and if I take nothing else with me from Buddhism (although I certainly will) this will be it.

It's not that two nights without talking to a beau drags me into misery. But after I had already called a couple of friends to see what they were doing and they weren't available, and my mother and sister were out to dinner with people from church leaving me at home alone, a hint of despair did creep in.

It really caught me off guard. In the instant that I felt the feeling come in, I realized how some people get trapped in negative cycles of thinking, emotionally spiraling out of control. It wasn't that I actually wondered whether or not he was going to the movie or on a date with someone. The thought came up that the same circumstances would lead someone to think that. I was glad that I didn't think that, but then I was equally upset that I wouldn't allow myself to go there.

There I was at a stoplight thinking to myself, "what purpose does it serve to let your mind go on this tangent?" I could only think of one; protection from misery. Logically, I would not expect a person who I've met only once but have talked with at length, who is also 2,500 miles away to be exclusive. I'm the one who disappeared on him two years ago. Based on that fact alone I understand if he has his reservations.

In that moment, I decided that I would sit with the unsatisfactory feeling, that I would let "dukkha" arise, do its thing, and move on. I wouldn't apply superficial labels to it. I made peace with it and left inner space to see what was at its core.

I prepared my dinner of food from my first visit to Trader Joe's, and as I plated my food and poured my glass of wine, I felt what I was waiting to feel. I didn't open myself up to the world, make efforts to deepen and maintain my friendships, only to spend another night like this.

The depth and honesty of that feeling helped me to realize that spending three to four hours talking to someone on the phone wouldn't alleviate that feeling anymore than not talking to them would be the cause of it.

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