learning to surf

The last few days have been rough to say the least, and I’m still trying to survive moments of crisis while battling hunger and exhaustion. Times like this are a lesson on how strong the primal will to survive is, when the mind shuts out everything except doing what needs to be done, cause there isn’t room for panic or surrender.

I’m learning to accept these spells as a simple fact of life. There’s never going to be a single defining moment from when I’ll forever be okay, when I can say they won’t happen any more. Being well takes as much effort as patience, happiness, and forgiveness. It’s both the work and adventure of a lifetime to become a better person in so many ways.

Sometimes Heather G sends me a quote or teaching, and relates to me how it’s helping her with her reactions or triggers. With her unflinchingly calm demeanour, I couldn’t imagine her having any of these kinds of issues, but it’s a reminder that everyone can use a little bit of work. I used to think she was simply a nice person; now I understand her kindness has been consciously and consistently cultivated over many years1.

As a person without a dark past, she has no understanding of what I go through in these times, no idea how to handle me, but it doesn’t stop her from caring so much. Sometimes that means stopping by for a talk even if she’s not sure I’m home, or dropping off a meal from one of my favourite restaurants, or giving me a small but meaningful gift. It’s a truly selfless empathy, one that doesn’t need a reason. She cares simply because I suffer, not because she agrees with why. I don’t know many people who show anyone that kind of compassion (not even themselves). And yet she considers herself a beginner on the path of awakening, when there’s so much I already have to learn from her.

For now, I’m figuring out how to embrace the wounds, and let the anger, fear, and hurt flow through me when my coping mechanisms aren’t enough. I know I can’t change the world, but I have the power to change myself and how I handle things. Or as Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”.

  1. She once went on a silent meditation retreat in Tibet, where 20 people live together but don’t talk for three days. “Little eye contact throughout and silent, mindful eating”, she tells me. Like a mindfulness bootcamp, that sounds as intimidating as any military one. []

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