Usually, I find this time of year challenging, the swing from summer to winter. Saying goodbye to the swallows feels a huge loss and a sadness, there is a part of me that wishes they would take me south with them. I do not like the darker and shorter evenings, do not want to be pushed indoors more. Until I stop fighting and embrace it and everything that this time of year brings - fires, warm jumpers, swooshing through autumn leaves in my wellies, as well as slowing myself down to match the speed of nature, as it starts to take life underground and into hibernation – it will continue to leave me unsettled. The seasons changing is not something I can alter after all.
There are parallels with so many things in life that we cannot change. Something happens that we don’t like and we rage against it. The initial pain is known as the first arrow in Buddhism and that raging is the second arrow, the avoidable one that we shoot at ourselves causing ourselves greater suffering. As Haruki Murakami says, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.”
This is true no matter what the pain causing thing is. For me this year, I've had much to work with: two slipped discs in my neck, with chronic ongoing physical pain in my upper body; the emotional pain of not being able to do what I would like to; the reduced ability to be the Mum I want to be to my kids; not being able to do the work I love; the feeling of life going on out there without me; and there are the smaller every day pains too. That is just how life is, there are '10,000 sorrows'. But how we respond to any type of pain defines how much suffering we experience.
I do not like the first arrow, but I have found that I can let it be there, gently feeling the discomfort or pain with kind acceptance, letting go to the experience because it is already here and focus on trying not to shoot a second or even third arrow (or a fourth!) at myself. When I was at my most ill, lying flat in bed not able to even lift a book to read, I would go in small loops where I discovered I could be with the intense feeling – sometimes for only seconds at a time - and would just breathe gently into that place. Slowly I could create distance and space around it, it would ebb and flow and change of its own accord and I found that I could handle it. It is not easy and sometimes it is just feels too hard when there seems too much pain. At those moments, I find that focussing on finding the joy in the smallest things (that are really everywhere when we look) as well as being kind to myself is what I need most. It is a life’s work, where I am endeavouring to enjoy the journey (and not wait ‘til the final destination!). I’m learning to let go to what is, to try not to control things and I watch my unhelpful thoughts and habits falling like the autumn leaves outside today.
As I write, I am mindful of the feedback on this blog that my husband gave me this week and have tried to balance the dark and the light and make sure there is joy here too! Life is 10,000 joys as well as 10,000 sorrows after all. So I’ll finish here, to go and enjoy a fire on this darkening early evening with my family and a steaming hot chai...benefits of the season.
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