Sunday, August 16, 2009

A priceless reminder to just be happy from a Zen Master

So I fully intended to do a Friday “Links in the Time of Foreclosure” blog post to stick to my new and self-imposed structure for the blog, but I got sidetracked with the post about the Release of Lien and ran out of time to do the ‘links’ post.

It was a busy week as I started a new project (thankfully) and am commuting from Barrington to Chicago every day. Which is easy with the express train, but definitely an adjustment.

Anyway, the one link I found worth sharing with you was to an article I read in the New York Times on the “Happy Days Blog.” Today is Sunday. It’s beginning to look like rain. The trees are swaying in the breeze and I’m still thinking about this article.

“For the Time Being” by Norman Fischer – Happy Days Blog [The New York Times]

Norman Fischer is a senior Zen Buddhist priest and poet. And what he wrote for The New York Times about happiness speaks so powerfully to our experience. It’s like he’s in my head! Well, he is a Zen Master. He writes about happiness and the human experience. I was especially taken by this passage:

“We want enjoyment, we want to avoid pain and discomfort. But it is impossible that things will always work out, impossible to avoid pain and discomfort. So to be happy, with a happiness that doesn’t blow away with every wind, we need to be able to make use of what happens to us — all of it — whether we find ourselves at the top of a mountain or at the bottom of the sea.”

Somehow knowing this helps. Knowing that it’s impossible to avoid pain and discomfort is a good thing. The goal isn’t to avoid it, but to learn from it. Perhaps? And accept it when it comes along. Pain & discomfort... hardship doesn’t have to take the place of happiness when it does appear. They can live side by side.

And by the way, to me pain has nothing to do with suffering. There's pain and then there's your reaction to it. Ever see someone who is completely calm after having just broken a bone? I broke my arm skiing in college and I still remember this eerie calm that came over me. Yes, it hurt. Yes, it was painful... but I was determined to get through it. Or little kids that fall and whack their heads and get back up and keep playing? To me, they are choosing FUN and PLAY instead of suffering. Their head might throb, but playing is more important to them. (I'm not a parent, so parents... feel free to disagree. Or agree. Either. Both.)

That’s what I’ve learned through all of this. I’ve experienced it first hand and sometimes I still forget. And I get stuck thinking that there's somewhere to get to. Like this:

Once we're on the island, we'll be happy.
Once we're out of debt, we can breathe.
Once we're dead, we can sleep.

We used to say, "Once we sell the house, things will be normal again." But what is normal? To me, Norman is saying that pain and discomfort are normal. That this is it. Truly. I've complained about being in a constant state of transition and how challenging it is. What if life is a constant state of transition?
"...to be happy, with a happiness that doesn’t blow away with every wind," Norman writes, "we need to be able to make use of what happens to us — all of it — whether we find ourselves at the top of a mountain or at the bottom of the sea.”


Whether we find ourselves in the house of our dreams or in someone else's dream home... Put like that it seems so silly that we would suffer a minute over our situation. One thing that is so clear to me is that we have truly been using what happens to us... all of it.

It’s wonderful to be reminded. And we're with Norman on this. We’ve found that it is possible to experience both love and happiness in the time of foreclosure.

That discovery is worth more than the dream house and all of our possessions combined.

For the rest of Norman’s poignant article in the New York Times, click here. Go read it and then come back here and comment. I'd love (as always) to hear what YOU think!

photo credit: courtesy of Katherine of Chicago


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3 Comments:

Kim Hooper said...

Great post. This is something I've thought about a lot lately. Buddhism talks a lot about attachment, and how suffering comes from attachment. To me, this means attachment to outcome, to things being a certain, "perfect" way. Life is messy and totally imperfect. All we can do is make the best of what we have. It's a very peaceful message (and not one I can keep in mind EVERY day, unfortunately ;))

Lori Yeghiayan said...

For more Buddhism, I HIGHLY recommend reading anything by Pema Chodron. Life is ups and downs. It's getting into a boat that you know is going to disintegrate before you reach the shore. There is no shore! Pema will make good island reading. :) Lori

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