Feelin’ Goooooood

What does it say about modern society that so many people need medication(s) just to function on a daily basis? What has changed in the last 100 years that makes it so we can’t cope?

As therapists, we are taught that we are to defer to the medical profession when treating mental-emotional disorders. Doctor knows best. What do doctors really have to offer us besides medications?

I love that scene in Sisters, a movie with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, in which they are trying to get their party started with a bunch of 40 somethings who have forgotten how to party. To loosen everyone up, Tina’s character calls in a drug dealer, Pazuzu, played skillfully by John Cena. She asks him what he’s got in his medical bag, and it takes him 5 minutes to run down all the drugs he has to offer, 90% of which are NOT illegal. Here’s a clip.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XAKjc2gIfo&t=10s

This medicated mindset comes from well meaning, smart, educated people all working really hard to try to make us feel good! There is a thick, all-inclusive, self help manual by well renowned doctor and teacher, David Burns, MD with that exact title – Feeling Good. In case you are interested, there’s even one for couples called Feeling Good Together!

The Buddha also wanted to end suffering, and that is the goal of Buddhist practice, but the approach is basically the opposite. The cause of suffering is attachment to wanting to feel good. The more you cling to the need to feel good, the more distraught and disappointed you become.

While meditating you learn that your suffering or dissatisfaction is directly related to attitudes that arise within your own heart and mind. You become aware of the fleeting nature of your thoughts and emotions, and you basically give up your restless seeking for something better and thus bring dissatisfaction to an end. No thing is ever going to make you happy. And on top of that, happiness is actually right under your nose. According to a certain parable, underneath the floor of the poor man’s house lies a great treasure.

This wisdom develops over a lifetime, and in the details of the difficulties of everyday life and social interactions, which become increasingly more interesting as we become conscious of our limiting and downright crazy thoughts.

Think about it ~jealousy, greed, hatred, fear, desire ~ What are these things anyway?

 

A Certain Sense of We-ness

Funny that now that I am in my 60s, I finally realize that I have been asking the wrong question. Maybe it is the gift of maturity that I finally get it, but the standard beliefs and tenets of modern psychology and Buddhist inquiry conspire against us.

Having studied psychology for 30+ years now, I have been on the path of self-discovery and personal growth. I have been intently interested in the Self with a capital S, and what makes it tick, what makes it suffer, what makes it happy, etc. Coupled with that I have also been interested in exploring all the various aspects of IMG_5176Buddhism. One of the basic practices of Buddhism is self-inquiry, and the big question is “Who am I?” The difference between the two is that modern psychology has the arrogance to think that it can actually answer that question with all the various and sundry theories, research projects and clinical practices. At least with Buddhist inquiry, the more you ask the more you understand that you will never fully grasp the Self, and there is great relief in letting go of the seeking. Once you let go, there is a wonderful surprise waiting for us called awareness. Resting in awareness, identification with a specific self dissolves and witness consciousness emerges. There is still a certain sense of you-ness (perhaps called Oneness), but it is inextricably connected to the All.

I was content with that realization until I read the last paragraph of Buddha’s Nature: A Practical Guide to Discovering Your Place in the Cosmos by Wes Nisker.

Instead of asking “Who am I?” The question could become “Who are we?” Our inquiry then becomes a community koan, a joint millennial project, and we all immediately become great saints – called Bodhisattvas in Buddhism – helping each other evolve.

We all suffer. It doesn’t really matter that my suffering may take a form different than your suffering. I may have money problems while you have family problems and someone else has career problems. The basic fact is that we all know suffering as we can learn here from the telling parable about the mustard seed.

Kisa Gotami had an only son, and he died. In her grief she carried the dead child to all her neighbors, asking them for medicine, and the people said: “She has lost her senses. The boy is dead.” At length Kisa Gotami met a man who sent her to meet Buddha.

“Buddha, give me the medicine that will cure my boy.” The Buddha answered: “I want a handful of mustard-seed.” And when the girl in her joy promised to procure it, the Buddha added: “The mustard-seed must be taken from a house where no one has lost a child, husband, parent, or friend.” Poor Kisa Gotami now went from house to house, and found that there was no house where some beloved had not died.

Kisa Gotami sat down at the wayside, and thought to herself: “How selfish am I in my grief! Death is common to all; yet in this valley of desolation there is a path that leads one to immortality who has surrendered all selfishness.”

Putting away the selfishness of her affection for her child, Kisa Gotami had the dead body buried in the forest. Returning to the Buddha, she took refuge in him and found comfort in the Dharma, which is a balm that will soothe all the pains of our troubled hearts. http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/btg/btg85.htm

So I say to myself “How selfish I have been in thinking that my suffering is special.” Now I’d like to turn toward the collective by asking “Who are we?”