First of all, I want to mention the passing of Maya Angelou today. I first read her words in eighth grade when I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and was amazed by the writing. I continued to enjoy reading what she wrote throughout the years, and I was very affected by the poem “Phenomenal Woman” when I was in college. And as I have gone through the last two-ish years of my life, there is one quote that I try to keep in mind at all times:
I often find myself struggling with the “I am enough” thing, and this quote (and my therapist) reminds me that we are all enough, right in this moment, just as we are.
Anyway, Dr. Angelou will certainly be missed.
I went back to meditation last night, and I forgot to take my little notebook with me, which means that I found myself writing notes on half of a Post-it note and the front page of my planner so that I could remember it for this blog post. The lesson this week was about cessation of suffering and whether the cessation of suffering occurs because of something outside of ourselves or from something inside ourselves. I have shared here my struggles with compulsive eating, compulsive dieting, and compulsive shopping. Because this is part of my story, this lesson felt very real and very personal to me.
A book that was recommended to me by my therapist talks about scarcity (which is basically the fear of not having what you need, which then leads you to compulsively over-collect what you may need so that you don’t have to worry about going without), and this blog has a post on using food to fill the hole of emptiness. Compulsive behaviors and addictions often come about because those who engage them feel like something is missing in life, and therefore, there is a quest to fill in what is missing with something external, whether it be food or drugs or belongings or restriction of food or alcohol or gambling or any other compulsion. This is personal to me because, like many lifelong dieters, I have long felt that my life would be so much better if I could just lose weight.
The logical side of me knows that this is not the case. My “suffering” will not cease if I manage to lose weight because my weight is not the problem. It is a manifestation of the problem(s). Therefore, the only way to achieve true cessation of suffering is to experience inner peace. Although I am certainly a work in progress in this respect, there are some things that I can do as I continue to learn on my meditation cushion. And one way that she talked about that I LOVED was the idea of considering where a person is coming from when you interact with them. By choosing not to go into my day as my limited self, I can consider the motivation of all those I come into contact with and use that knowledge to adjust the way I react to them. The example given to us, which does not pertain to me, was the idea of a mother-in-law who constantly gives unsolicited advice to her daughter-in-law. The daughter-in-law might be annoyed by this constant advice if she considers if with her limited self. However, if she thinks of this advice as her mother-in-law’s attempt to provide her with loving advice and assistance, her outlook may change, and she will not feel herself as “triggered” by these interactions. I am sure we all have people in our lives who we can approach in this way.
Anyway, I am still very much a work in progress, and I have been deep into some compulsive behaviors lately, but some of the stuff I am learning through therapy and meditation has been repeated to me often enough that I am starting to have no choice but to listen to it. And this makes me so grateful to my therapist and to my meditation teacher!