How does one deal with anxiety and confusion? I know what a Buddhist would say – “Sit more.” Yeah, like that’s going to happen. I don’t sit. I try in fits and starts, but it never sticks. Others might suggest going for a jog, working it off, taking up kickboxing. That isn’t a bad idea, but it implies there is time and money to be had. Likewise, a little sex can be great at stress relief, but again there are certain logistical issues. There are always drugs, but I don’t have a chemical imbalance in my brain (that I know of) in need of correcting and I’ve never much cared for recreational use.
And those are all excuses, things I tell myself so I can fall back into my habitual pattern, my old standby – talking to myself. Or writing to myself, which is basically the same thing. I like talking to myself. I like thinking. I like to believe and I can think my way through anything. When that fails, there’s always just the hang in there until it goes away option. In the meanwhile, I can think to pass the time. I like thinking so much that I don’t like sitting much at all. It invalidates my entire concept of self worth, or tries to. Sitting threatens my ego. Of course, it’s also damned boring, uncomfortable crossing the border into downright painful, time consuming, and of dubious value. Again with the excuses.
I know, I know. So many thousands of years of buddhas and lamas and Rinpoche and sensei’s and roshi’s can’t be wrong. Blah, blah, blah. I don’t even disagree with them. I received hours upon hours of meditation instruction. I’ve experienced the value of it for myself. I know exercise is good for me too, but I don’t do that either. Of course, I’m not obese or unhealthy. I don’t have high blood pressure or bad cholesterol or anything else that exercise might significantly impact. Sure, I’d feel better. It’d be nice to be fit and toned, capable of leaping tall bushes in a single bound, and have a nice, flat tummy. But the trade off doesn’t seem to be worth it – all that effort to marginally improve something I’m not terribly dissatisfied with in the first place.
I went to psychological services today. I filled out some forms and made an appointment for tomorrow. Drug abuse – no, sexual abuse – no, depression – no, suicidal thoughts – no, feelings of worthlessness – no, eating disorder – no, on and on down the line. Of course, I did stop and stare at the “I feel that there is something wrong with my mind” for quite some time before checking the box marked “Frequently,” but I was smiling when I did it. I really hope they aren’t overbooked, because I’d hate to take the spot of someone in more desperate need than I, but the fact that they could get me in under twenty-four hours later makes me think they have the time to help me figure some things out.
Like the stereotypical actor, I want to know “What’s my motivation?” It seems rather hypocritical to complain that I’ve got it too good. But in the end, how do you work up the motivation to put in the work to seek the end of suffering when you’ve got yourself convinced that this whole samsara thing ain’t so bad?
That’s the question, isn’t it. That is THE question. I think the answer is going to have to lie with others. Maybe I don’t have it so bad, but others do. If I am truly, genuinely sincere in my desire to alleviate the suffering of others, then I need to practice, I need to get a handle on my own mind so that I can put it to use towards their benefit. Yet right here right now the suffering of others is a distant, nebulous thing. There is nothing pressing and immediate about it. Maybe there should be.
In the books I’m reading (the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher) the characters briefly discuss that at a certain point, no one can teach you anything more and the only way to continue learning is to teach others. Now, these novels may be fiction (and good fiction) but I believe this is a true thing. I think this is why I have always liked to argue and to teach. In explaining things to others, I learn more about them myself. Of course, I'm not in a position to help others in that way yet, but I could be, and I know what the path to get there looks like.
Maybe that’s the question. I made this appointment with psychological services thinking that maybe if I talk out my career path confusion with someone else, they’ll be able to find the question, THE question I’ve been missing, the one with the obvious answer that sheds light on everything else.
Maybe THE question really is the first question – how do we become free from suffering?