Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Imperfection and Contentment

The world is built on a fabric of basic goodness.  The sun rises each morning and lights the day ahead.  There is air to breathe; we have bodies and minds to work with, however impeded by disabilities or challenges they might be.  Our mouths can smile, as can our eyes.  We can choose to help someone in need, even simply casting a smile someone’s way can lighten another’s burden.  The earth is still orbiting the sun and we are still secured by gravity. 

The basic dignity of life cycles on with birth and death in the animal and vegetable kingdoms.  Birds sing, wind cools, sun warms, plants grow.  The world continues despite the imperfections we all experience and the struggles this imperfection may bring us.  Adding storylines to the suffering only causes more suffering.  Our minds are capable of so much, either suffering or joy.

We are human and we will struggle in life.  There is plenty to struggle with and the struggle comes from the suffering we naturally experience as humans and our resistance our minds have to change.  There seems to be degrees of suffering.  There is the suffering that is simply due to untimely things happening to us, to those we love, to our world around us.  Accidents, natural disasters, sickness are all occurring at all times.  There is the suffering due to attachments we make, changing circumstances in our lives or dreams and hopes unrealized.  Things end and things we wait for and hope for never arrive.  Our relationship ends because our beloved found someone else to love.  We never receive the invitation to marry the one with whom we hoped to spend our life.  And, there is the big picture suffering; that is, the world in which we live is in constant motion, a moment to moment flux.  If we stop for a moment, just sit or stand, pause and reflect, we realize that the basic nature of the world is not for or against us.  It just is.  We just are.

Nothing is permanent as much as we would like to fix our mind around a fixed point, a true north.  We all realize this truth on some level, however, it causes so much uncertainty and angst that we attempt time and again to find an anchor and place of solid foundation where we can hang our hat, set up our home, solidify into statues of happiness and peace. 

We are waiting for that moment, however unrealistically, to get everything synced – the kids are safe and established, we are in a happy marriage, we have fulfilling, well paying careers, all of our friends, family and community members have everything they ever dreamed of.  We are living in a kind of Disneyesque reality of perfection. Then it is shattered by a diagnosis of cancer, a job loss, a flood, a tragic car accident.  The illusion is shattered and we feel devastated and angry and shocked that this could happen to us.

The more we come to terms with what life actually is – constantly changing and impermanent – the more content, peaceful and even joyous we can be.  The truth is all this uncertainty and landscape of constant change brings us a great deal of suffering.  How can we respond to this?  If we can notice what we are really feeling on a physical plane – where it feels in our body – our head, our chest our tummy – we actually can slow down our racing mind and relax a bit.  This gives us the opportunity to sit for a moment with our physical feelings in our body as they naturally arise.  Our frenetic swirling thoughts that we attach to our suffering end up distracting us and increasing our suffering actually. 

By connecting with our suffering physically and slowing down a bit, we begin to link our struggles in the world to our mind's attachment to a small-minded way of thinking which is fundamentally based on fear.  There is another way, to work with our mind and its basic wonderful quality of always being able to transform.  Once we see and realize the capability of our mind, we have a choice of paths before us.  Either we stay hooked on our old ways of thinking, doing and being which contributes to further chaos by building bigger and bigger mind dramas around our struggles and life situations.  Or we choose to gently pause our mind's racing and breathe if only for a few minutes; through the space we make when we slow down, we can actually reduce the impact or damage we might be causing others.  We feel the space growing inside of us and around us. 

Obviously, we all have our struggles.  What can help us to face and feel and relate to our struggles?  First, beginning with noticing what we feel when we struggle and where we feel it.  We may begin to notice we had other struggles we weren’t even aware of and some of the struggles may fall away.  We may have a particularly big struggle we deal with and have for a very long time.  It may be with us our entire life.  And perhaps this big struggle may be the key we use to relate and connect to others and in truth help others. 

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