Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Finding Peace In The Midst Of Emotional Chaos

   The grey winter skies dampen my mood as I look out the window.  My mind begins to tear away at itself as I sit cooped up in the house until suddenly there is a knock at my door.  I answer, and see Depression standing on my porch.  He wears an expensive suit, and there is almost no emotion on his face.  The cold day grows even colder as he walks into the house, and my body goes numb as he embraces me in a hug.  I try to hide from him.  I wrap myself up in thick blankets and lay on the couch without moving.  I hope that if I'm quiet enough, he'll get bored and go away.  But Depression is a patient beast.  When I refuse to speak with him, he simply sits down at my desk, and whispers just loudly enough for me to hear.  He tells me that it's pointless to get up.  He reminds me how cold and uncaring the world can be.  "Trust me," he says, "It's much better in here.  You're much safer alone in your house; with the lights off and the curtains closed.  Just stay in here... with me."

     We stay like this for a while, and then I hear another knock at my door.  I answer it, and Anxiety walks in without waiting to be invited.  Her frazzled hair and threadbare nightgown fill me with panic as my thoughts degenerate into static white noise.  There's so much to do!  I have a report to finish for work, and there's that book that I want to read.  I wonder if anyone commented on that Facebook post I've been following... Oh shit! I forgot to walk the dog.  I literally run around in circles as I attempt to do one thing, but then change my mind and attempt to do something else.  But Anxiety doesn't miss a beat.  She runs in circles with me rattling on about protests, wars, grocery lists, and a million other things that need my attention.  I turn on some loud music to distract myself from her ramblings.  But it doesn't matter how loudly the stereo plays... Anxiety still makes herself heard.

     Suddenly, Anger appears in my living room.  I literally have no idea when he arrived, but it feels like he's been here from the beginning.  I don't have time to ponder this, however, before he pulls out a laptop and starts playing videos for me to watch.  More specifically, he plays an endless loop of all the injustices that I've suffered in my life.  I sit silently as the screen shows a bully stealing my Game Boy in fifth grade.  Next, I relive an argument that I had with a close friend.  Finally, I'm on the verge of screaming as the laptop shows me riding my bike and almost getting hit by some guy in a Hummer.  "There was plenty of room on the road," I mutter to myself, "Why the hell did he have to pass so close to me!"  As the images flash across the screen, Anger offers "helpful" advice on what I should do.

     "You should do something to get back at that friend of yours." he says.  I nod ruefully as my mind becomes filled with thoughts of revenge.  "Maybe he's right," I think to myself, "I shouldn't let people walk all over me."  I look over at Anger as he sits down on my couch.  He's wearing a flannel shirt with the sleeves cut off and a trucker hat.  The logical part of me knows that his suggestions never lead to anything good.  But it's hard to hear that part of myself when he's around.  It's like his presence shuts off my ability to think clearly.  Instead, I just want to stew in the unfairness of life and how others have done me wrong.  For his part, Anger looks very pleased with himself.  The more I dwell on the past, the stronger he becomes.  In this way, he derives great pleasure from my pain.

     That being said, this isn't my first rodeo.  I know bad things will happen if I don't take action quickly, so I stop what I'm doing and open the door that leads to my basement.  It's wet and cold down there.  But I like to imagine that Bodhidharma's cave had a similar mystique. That's why I carved out a small corner of it for myself and created a meditation area.  That's where I'm heading as I walk down the creaky, wooden steps.  Depression, Anxiety, and Anger follow close behind me.  They know what's coming, but they aren't going down without a fight.

     As I do prostrations in front of my altar Depression whispers, "It's late.  Why don't you just skip it tonight and go to bed early."  When I take my seat on the cushion and begin chanting Namo Amitahba Buddha Anxiety taps my shoulder, and recites a list of tasks that won't get completed if I stay down here too long.  And when I close my eyes to begin meditating Anger jacks his laptop directly into my skull so that painful memories flash nonstop on the back of my eyelids.  Suddenly, I'm sad, scared, and pissed off all at the same time, and in this sea of mental confusion... I sit on the cushion and focus on my breath.  I breathe deeply, and focus on the feeling of air moving in and out of my lungs.  But my emotions don't like being ignored, and they grow louder in their protests.  Depression tells me that I'm worthless, and Anxiety calls me a failure.  Anger pokes me in the chest, and questions my manhood.  But I block them out and continue concentrating on my breath. Eventually, something shifts.  It's as if the more they scream, the less I can hear them.  I keep breathing, and revel in the newfound silence.  If my emotions are a hurricane, then I'm the eye of the storm.

     Time passes, and eventually my alarm sounds.  Has it been thirty minutes already?  I open my eyes and recite the four Bodhisattva vows.  Then I look around.  Depression, Anxiety, and Anger are still here.  But they're sitting quietly against the wall with their eyes closed.  Upon closer inspection, I notice that their appearances have changed.  They were solid and substantial when I started my meditation.  But now that I'm finished they all seem faded and less real.  Intuitively, I know that they can't hurt me anymore.  'They're like old tigers who've lost their fangs," a voice whispers from deep inside me.  I nod in agreement as a feeling of peace flows through my body.  Smiling broadly, I do three final prostrations before the Buddha.  Then we all walk wordlessly up the stairs.

3 comments:

  1. "But my emotions don't like being ignored, and they grow louder in their protests. Depression tells me that I'm worthless, and Anxiety calls me a failure. Anger pokes me in the chest, and questions my manhood. But I block them out and continue concentrating on my breath. Eventually, something shifts. It's as if the more they scream, the less I can hear them. I keep breathing, and revel in the newfound silence. If my emotions are a hurricane, then I'm the eye of the storm."
    And...'They're like old tigers who've lost their fangs," I like this a lot.

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  2. Thank you very much for sharing all those feelings, I have the same .... and zazen helps me too, gassho

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