Following my last week’s letter, I received waves of responses from you. I am both touched and inspired by your words of encouragement, your thoughts and concerns, your fears.
It sure feels vulnerable to go into this rabbit hole, but here we go! We’re in this together.
I want you to know that your message has an impact. That your words can make the difference between giving up and going for it. Who do you feel inspired to acknowledge or encourage? Give a smile, a compliment. Give it, give it, give it.
Like with anything else, less is more. You don’t have to go above and beyond. Keep it simple, say it like you mean it. Be yourself. Let them be themselves.
That’s my thank you to you. That’s me acknowledging that we are in this together, and that all of us, in one way or another, feel the pang of the world we live in. We ask ourselves how we got here, we see inevitability, we see pretend and make due. We feel powerless. We feel angry. We feel unseen.
All these feelings, we’ve gotten really good at drowning them out in entertainment, in wine, in to-do lists, in any kind of behaviour that numbs the worry and the pain. We put a fresh coat of paint over the wallpaper. And for a minute, we imagine that we can breathe and that our grandchildren will have it just as good as we did. (It’s OK to take breaks from it all, don’t get me wrong. It gets problematic when we numb ourselves day in and day out - that’s how we got here, is it not?)
So, the question is, how do we defrost and wake up? How can we acknowledge what’s going on without breaking down? Those are the questions that have weighed heavy on my heart from months… years really.
No, I’m not going to write that it’s all going to be okay. Because 1) it’s bullshit, and 2) I don’t know.
That said, it doesn’t mean that everything is lost, that our future leads to misery and that we should all jump ship.
What I do know for sure is that things are always changing. I know that everything is temporary. Impermanence.
I also know that humans have an extraordinary capacity to adapt and learn from their environment. When you think about it, problems only started when we tried to control our environment instead of living WITH our environment. (I’m gonna leave that here and move on for now.)
I also know that to come to terms with the state of the world, each and every one of us has to do some breaking down. For that to happen, we need to respect our need to feel, and grieve, and be angry. We need to recognize that these sacred feelings come and go, and we shouldn’t be afraid of them. They are messengers.
As I write these words, I find it difficult to articulate the importance of feeling. It’s so much easier to talk about bypassing and avoidance, about ways to feel great and cultivate peace. Feel, feel, feel! Feel it all. The obstacle is the way, after all.
And this is where I turn the spotlight onto buddhist teachings on impermanence. It felt life-changing when I first encountered it over a decade ago. Now, it feels world-changing. The truth of it is this: we are all going to die. Each and everyone one of us. No exception.
I could smother you in some short-cut cliché and write: So make the best of it! (Drops mic and walks off.) But that’s not quite it.
When Buddhist teachings draw our attention onto the finality of life, they are not saying to live it to the fullest without regard for tomorrow. Instead, they are inviting to feel this reality for what it means to each and everyone of us. They are inviting us to acknowledge the fear, the heartbreak, the anger, the resistance, which then opens the doors to a true meaningful life.
You know you are going to die. Yet, you continue to live and to go about. How is that? What keeps you going? What makes it meaningful? What gets you up in the morning?
Watch what happens when you scale this: You know life as we know it is ending on planet Earth (whether humanity will disappear, or mega-changes will occur). Yet, you (and most everyone around you) continue to live, here today, and to go about. How is that? What keeps you going? What makes it meaningful? What gets you up in the morning?
In buddhist terms, living life to the fullest is living out the questions and the paradoxes, and finding beauty and wonder regardless of the outcome.
What’s beautiful about this is that there are no right nor wrong answers. Whatever feels true to YOU is the answer.
There is no cookie-cutter answer. You have to sit with it for yourself and find your way. I’m still sitting with the paradox of it all. And I’m thinking I might have to sit with it for the rest of my life.
I write this as much to you as to myself. If you’re reading this, I want you to know you are not alone.