That Is Enough

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Life is stressful. Shit happens! We get sick. We lose our jobs. People we trust let us down. It is nice to think there will be a day when none of these life altering things will happen. But, we are not naive. We know the next shit storm is right around the corner. That’s what makes life a messy adventure.

This won’t be a long post. It will also not be a post about how your mindfulness or my Buddhist practice has taught me to appreciate the shit storms so that I will recognize the glorious sunshine that breaks forth. And though this is accurate it’s not the point of why I’m writing this.

The quote above is imperative to my life. My friendships have dwindled over the years. But, I can happily say the few amazing close friends that have remained a constant in my life have made all the difference. And spending time with them is more than enough. Often it’s the only thing that keeps me going. Go out, find those few, hold them close. Nurture those relationships. They will be your greatest champions; your strongest support.

What Scares You?

What scares you?  I don’t mean the things that go bump in the night (though I readily admit they scare me). I want to know what scares you.  What makes you say, “I’m not going to try that, what if it doesn’t work.”  “I can’t do that, what if I fail?”

When I teach lessons in class many of my students, when they are exploring a concept, will ask, “What if…” questions.  “What if I do this…?” “What is she does that…?”  I tell my students, “I don’t deal in ‘What If’s.”  This should become our motto when it comes to fear. No more “What If” scenarios.  Stand proudly and tell yourself, “I don’t deal in ‘What If’s’!”

Now, making that our motto and actually living our life that way are two completely different things.  I have many fears that have stood in the way of my happiness.  Growing up I wanted to perform.  I loved being in front of an audience.  I practically lived at our local civic theatre when I was in high school.  My first two years in college were devoted to musical theatre as my major.  Then, after some financial concerns I moved back to Florida and attended Florida State University.  I was accepted in their vocal performance major and was on the path into their musical theatre program.  It was then that my inner critic began to take hold.  “What if you can’t ever find a job?”  “What if everyone laughs at you?”  “What if they see what a horrible dancer you are?”  “What if you have absolutely no talent?”

I’m sad to say I let my inner critic win.  I am scared of performing now.  I have “What if-ed” myself into a fear of performing.  I used to have no greater pleasure than singing up on stage.  I loved the thrill of the audience’s applause, belting a tune, and holding that final note.  Now, my greatest performances come in front of a group of eleven year olds.  I tell myself that I took the more noble path, that educating children, our future, is far more rewarding than performing.  I try to convince myself that I have let go of my ego by choosing the life I currently lead.  But, that is complete bullshit and I know it.  But, if I keep repeating it, maybe one day, I won’t feel like I’ve cheated myself out of the life I dreamed of.

Once I let the idea of performing go, after listening to my inner critic, more fears began creeping in.  My most crippling one now if the fear of being “talked about.”  It’s that idea of not being able to control the situation.  At times it is crippling for me.  I try not to show the fear.  I hate walking into the cafeteria at my school because I’m convinced that the group of children that are laughing are laughing at me (I recognize the giant ego at play to assume everyone it talking about me).  At times I will allow infractions to pass because I don’t want a student to call me the word I live in true fear of being called, “FAG!” I have been called fag many times by students.  I’m sure I will be called fag many more. But, it has become so derogatory a term that I can’t get beyond it when it happens.  I’m taken back to my middle school and high school days when it was a popular epithet hurled at me by closed minded, small town boys.  And believe me, I am completely aware that the middle schoolers that call me that now hold absolutely no power over me.  And part of me wants to respond, “ddduuuuuuhhhhhhh!” But it is still painful.  And pain is often accompanied by fear.  We begin to fear the pain so much that it breathes new life into the the very object that should hold no power.

This is not to say that I allow this fear to win.  I conquer it every day I walk into the school house.  It is why I have perfected a “hard ass” persona with my students.  They know I don’t take crap.  But deep down that fear lingers and grips me with it’s cold powerful hands.  I will not allow it to win.  I will not allow any fear to ruin my happiness again.

I have a new dream now.  I want to travel and write.  My inner critic has talked me out of this many times over the recent years.  But no more.  I’m going to push ahead with it.  This blog is just the start.  I will not be taken hostage by fear again.  It is no longer a matter of, “what if I fail?”  Now, I stand strong and say, “I DO NOT DEAL IN WHAT IF!”  Each morning I repeat my affirmation, “I am a prosperous and successful writer.”  Though affirmations may not work for everyone, they are powerful to me.  Find where you can draw power.  Do one thing each day that scares you.  Even if it’s as simple as walking into that cafeteria with your head held high.  Don’t live a life of “What If!”  Stand up now, own your dreams.  Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Namasté
Matthew

Disappointment’s Real World Applications

I’ve written several blogs about how to deal with issues as they arise. I’ve spoken more as a guide than as a practitioner. I believe that may be misrepresenting myself. I am not a great master or teacher. I am a humble practitioner on a journey and I should represent myself as such.

In that vein I have a story to share. This is not a life altering story and to some of my readers it may seem quite minuscule in the grand scope of life. But, it is a story of the challenges of leading a life out in the world and trying to reconcile the disappointments of that life with the practice of my Buddhist ideals.

This school year has been more difficult than usual for me. As I’ve said before I work in a lower income school and I have had struggles with some very challenging students this year. As such, I have complained once too often to my bosses at my school. Because of these complaints I had one of the courses I teach given to another teacher so that next year I will teach only history. When I first learned of this change my ego immediately took over and I was devastated. I was convinced they were telling me that I was an incompetent teacher and that I was being punished for my complete inability to teach (have I ever mentioned that I have a tendency toward over-dramatics?). I waited four days to discuss my feelings with the powers-that-be to make sure I did not bring my over dramatics with me into the meeting. It took a great deal of thought, meditation, and positive affirmations to get myself prepared for this meeting. My principal allowed me to be honest and graciously listened to my concerns, no matter how far fetched they were. She assured me that in no way was I being punished and she advised me to put a positive spin on the issue and look at it is a reward. I would no longer have to deal with the most challenging of students on a large scale. After four days of meditation this was the conclusion I had come to on my own, but it was nice to have the professional validation of my thoughts. I was able to walk away from this issue feeling rather pleased with myself and at peace, no matter how tenuous.

Then came the last day of school. These feelings of inadequacy and punishment reemerged when it was announced I would lose my classroom. A little background here, I have the second largest classroom on campus. It was the old home economics room. It has two refrigerators, two stoves, a microwave, a washer and dryer, a dish washer and is twice the size of other classrooms. I had quite the set up here. I purchased an iced tea maker, made my own ice, cut up lemons, went grocery shopping for snacks and lunches etc. I was living large in this room. My room is truly the reason I didn’t want to give up the program I was teaching. It is a room envied by many. And, it was another blow to my already fragile ego. Disappointment came again to the forefront of my emotions which of course then led to anger. I was mad at my boss, mad at myself, and extremely mad at the teacher taking my job. These emotions are still at the surface, they are not going away as easily as I had hoped. I have meditated quite often on my knowledge of desire and yearning and ownership. I do not own the program I was teaching. I do not own the classroom I was teaching in. What I do own in the desire to have my classroom back. That is where my problems arise. By longing for that one thing I have allowed my feelings of inadequacy and disappointment to take over and at times overwhelm me. If I let go of the desire for my room I will let go of the anger as well. But, as anyone who has been a practitioner for any length of time will tell you, this is far easier said than done.

I will admit it has gotten easier for me to recognize where my emotions are coming from and why I am turning those emotions into negative feelings. The challenges arise when I can’t get my ego aligned with my practice. This is why I felt the need to share this story. As I said at the beginning, this will seem shallow and childish to many who read this. But, this shallow behavior is how I recognize that I have a lesson to be learned here. It is not, in the end, about the classroom or the program I’ve lost. It is about the lesson that karma/life/the universe/the almighty/the goddess is teaching me. I have to let go of these feelings. I will not be less of a teacher because my classroom is different. I also have quite the nerve to be “proud” of the fact that people envy my room. My ego believes I was envied. Envied for what? The luck of getting a large room? In the end the classroom is just a shell. What breathes life into that classroom is the interaction that comes from my students and me.

The great thinker Eckhart Tolle said, “Not all thinking and all emotion are of the ego. They turn into ego only when you identify with them and they take you over completely, that is to say, when they become ‘I.'” I have allowed these feelings of desire for my classroom, disappointment over what I’ve “lost”, and inadequacy that I’ve invented to take me over completely. I have made all of this about me. Could I be any more arrogant? The first step here has been realizing my arrogance. Now I must take this lesson and glean knowledge and insight from it. I must kill off my ego. That is my task and I shall not slink away from it.

Namasté

Matthew

Disappointment

How are we supposed to handle disappointment?  Let’s be honest, we face disappointment on a regular basis; both large and small.  We find it when our favorite restaurant is out of our usual culinary delights or when we arrive for happy hour to discover that it ended 15 minutes earlier.  We also confront larger disappointments when we are let down by those we care about or worse, when we let ourselves down.

The idea for this blog post came to me earlier this week when I was turned down for a job I’d interviewed for; my summer employment.  Of course I was disappointed that the job fell through, but where I felt the most confusion was in the fact that I felt disappointment at all.  I had, just a few days earlier, decided I wasn’t going to take the job. So, instead of disappointment, I should have felt relief.  But ultimately rejection brings disappointment to the forefront of our emotions.

In the end it boils down to this simple idea: I wasn’t wanted.  It isn’t the first time I’ve faced this realization.  I’ve been rejected by people I wanted to date.  I’ve been rejected for jobs.  I’ve been rejected for promotions.  I was once even rejected for rejecting someone (it’s a long story but they refused to accept the fact that we would not be dating).  Rejection does not feel good. No matter what spin you place on it, you’ve still been measured and found wanting.

The question then becomes, what do I do with these emotions?  How do I take this negative kick in the gut and transform that into a positive.  My answer? I have no freakin’ clue.  But I know what has been working for me lately.  The power of the affirmation.  I used to be a self-help junkie.  Of all the books on improvement I’ve read my favorite, by far, is Louise L. Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life.  In it she extolls the virtues of positive affirmations.  I plaster them all over my bathroom mirror.  But for many that is probably going too far.  However, reminding yourself that you are strong, or powerful, or just simply saying “thank you” to yourself can make a positive difference in how you’re feeling.

I’ll fully admit that when I began my practice of affirmations I felt like a complete idiot.  Staring at myself in a mirror saying, “You are a powerful human being,” was completely unnatural and I was more than a little embarrassed.  Then, without completely acknowledging it, I started to feel better.  Less disappointment, less fear, less anger.  Did it solve the issue completely? No.  Did it take the edge off the emotions? Yes.  Just as with my anger, I sit with my disappointments as well.  I nurture them to find the root of my deeper pain.  The expectations I have set for myself, and worse, for others, has led to much of my disappointment in life.  As the Buddha taught, the cessation of desire leads to happiness.  Does that mean I stop wanting and striving and hoping?  No.  But I work, through my practice, to keep those in check and keep my disappointment at bay.

The next time you’re faced with disappointment sit with it, nurture it, delve into to it to find the deeper meaning.  For it is only through greater understanding that we can control and eventually conquer our difficult emotions.

Namasté

Matthew