The instruction is to take on the suffering directly, without artifice.
What I see is how much I make a mess of things by acting unskillfully when I am angry and frightened. It seems so important in the moment to say that hurtful thing, to lash out, to punch something, to flee, to scream, to drink the rest of that bottle.
My equanimity is far away, like a ship that’s almost sailed over the horizon, ever diminishing.
When I can look at it, I’m ashamed and chagrined at my behavior.
I seem a stranger to myself. Who did these things?
With practice, though, there’s a little bit more awareness. Sometimes it comes in time to prevent the unskillful actions, sometimes it arrives in the midst of them, sometimes only in the wrecked aftermath.
But more and more often it shows up in time.
Not reliably so yet, but I can see some progress.
I’m sitting in the burned out wreckage of one of those times when I failed to wake up in time. Scorched wires and acrid smoke in the air, metallic taste in my mouth, my heart emptied out.
One more in a long string of failures.
I think one of the helpful things about my practice is that it points out to me that these things are my own, that they do not come from outside of me. Despite what my ego tells me, they’re not someone else’s fault. It really does arise from my fearful ego screaming to get what it wants, what it demands, and me letting ego have its way.
Like letting a two year old take the wheel. It wants to go to Chucky Cheese, but the little fucker can’t drive for shit and of course he wrecks the car and there’s nothing but blood and smoke in the air and shattered glass and sirens and you look at him all stunned and bleeding, the airbag deflating around his little tow-headed self and he’s like, “the fuck you let ME drive for?”
So, try to be with the thing itself. Try to be with what’s really occurring, and not so much with what the ego is screaming at you. Tell the ego, “You know what? I’m driving, and we’re going to the store for some groceries, and it’s going to be fine. You settle on down. If you’re nice, maybe you can have a cookie when we get home.”
Then drive to the store, get what you need.
It’s not so bad, the way things are.
The other thing is it can be helpful to recognize that everyone just wants to be happy, and all the stupid shit they do to hurt themselves and everyone else is just shit they’re doing in the mistaken belief that it will make them happy, that it will stop the bleeding for a second. They just don’t know any better.
Like me. Like you.
So, you have a little tenderness in your heart for them. And you throw yourself a bone, too. You’re not so bad.
You’ll do better next time.