Buddha and the Borg

The universe has been very clear lately in letting me know that I need to work on this whole mindfulness thing.  This morning I was listening to a podcast that talked about loss and pain, as viewed through the lens of the Noble Truths of Buddhism.  Then I checked on DysthymiaBree to find that she was mulling over the same exact things.  And then there was SuzJones and her post about taking a break from pushing so much, and letting life guide her instead.

Ok, Universe, I hear you.  It would have been fabulous if you had put all these pieces together in a cohesive whole for me to process and apply to my life…but apparently it’s up to me to do that.  First let me preface by saying that I’m in no way an expert in Buddhism – frankly, there are only a few tidbits I’ve gathered here and there.  So if I butcher some fundamental beliefs, please forgive me!  Here goes…

I think the idea of mindfulness and awareness is to accept all of the experiences and feelings that we have in life.  To let them flow through us, to acknowledge them and then let them go.  This is particularly challenging when it comes to difficult experiences and feelings – things that cause us pain.  We are sort of hard-wired to resist pain and fear, and we develop all sorts of strategies of resistance.  Some of these might be addictions, for example.  We fight the pain with all our might, and in so doing, we cause our own suffering.  As I heard on my podcast today, “Pain in life is inevitable, but suffering is optional.”

What?!?

All of us will experience pain in our lives.  There is absolutely nothing we can do to change that.  But, we suffer when we resist that pain, when we don’t let it move through us.  As DysthymiaBree says, “Suffering is when we ‘dwell in the pain’.”  When we’re unable to accept the pain, when we’re unable to let go of the injuries of the past, when we can’t control our anxieties about the future.  We push against the pain with every ounce of strength we have.  I think that’s part of what SuzJones was getting at – that sometimes we just need to let go and let life flow through us.

I can’t help but be reminded of the Borg from Star Trek:

Strength is irrelevant.  Resistance is futile.
  
They were SO right.  Damn Borg.

So then what?  This could be just an academic exercise – a brief foray into the principles of Buddhism.  I’ve done my fair share of term papers, and knocked out a dissertation back in the day, so I kind of like academic exercises.  But really, what the hell does all of this mean for me, struggling with depression, trying to find some approaches that will make my life more bearable – and perhaps even happier (perish the thought)?

Like DysthymiaBree, I think I need to truly accept that my mental illness will be with me for the rest of my life.

(Ugh.  Suddenly I just want to curl up and press the delete button.  It’s so hard to say those words out loud.  Kind of knocks the wind out of me, frankly.  Deep breath…)

My mental illness will be with me for the rest of my life.  That is – and will always be – a regular pain for me.  I need to experience that pain and acknowledge it.  I need to acknowledge all parts of it – my 7 tons of bricks, my Grey Ghost, all of it.  I need to stop fighting it – to stop expending so much energy on rehashing things I wish were different in my past – things that would have been different if I weren’t so depressed.  I need to stop wasting energy on my fears for the future – that I’m on the slippery slope again, that my kids will spend decades uncovering their own depression, that I will never be truly happy.

Strength is irrelevant.  Resistance is futile.

Sometimes it’s easier to identify the things you shouldn’t do, rather than the things you should.  So at this point I get a little tied up trying to make sense of what I should do instead of fighting all of this.  In theory I’ll have freed up a whole lot of time if I’m no longer resisting – but what to do instead?  What does that look like?  I don’t know yet but I hope I can figure it out.

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