✨ Having a rough go of it?  Dukkha, Baby. (Handle With Care.)  ✨

  • What to do when you step in some Dukkha :
  • 1. Don't wipe it on other people in an effort to get rid of it.
  • 2. Please be nice to yourself
  • 3. Remember that we're all in this together. 

In Buddhist teachings, the place where we begin is with the The First Noble Truth :
Which is the very appropriate sounding Truth of Dukkha.

It's the entryway to the Path of Liberation, and a shared feature that we all have in common just by virtue of being human ---
Sometimes Dukkha is translated as the Truth of Suffering, the Truth of Discontent, the Truth of Dissatisfaction.

I personally like to think of it as the Truth of 'Let’s drop the positivity worship for a minute and just all admit that we have a hard time sometimes'.

If you find yourself reading this and and the whole suffering / dissatisfaction bit rings true for you, then let me just skip to the front of the line to tell you that yes, your experience is valid.
You are also inherently whole and capable.
And, no, there is nothing wrong with you.
As Joseph Campbell once wrote, "All religions [ and philosophies] began with a cry for Help." 

Dukkha is Dukkha and it sucks and it's human and I love you. 

What can easily happen though, is that we feel badly about feeling badly --
because so-called negative feelings are unproductive, or uncharacteristic, or unappealing or un-Instagramable or whatnot.
If I had a penny for every time I shamefully apologized for stress-crying on the floor, or being in a generally dissatisfied mood. 
Which is precisely where Dukkha gets tangled and snarly.

"This is really hard and uncomfortable" becomes
“It’s not good enough.”
“I shouldn't be feeling this way.”
“I just really suck at this.”
"I know I should be positive right now..."
“I just can’t get my shit together.”

First there’s the heart-pain of difficulty. Then we beat ourselves up for experiencing it.
Like shooting a second arrow into a gaping wound. 
Some of us can use self-criticism as fuel to do “better”, but it’s fuel that doesn’t burn clean.
It simply isn’t sustainable. It's just a sloppy double-decker Dukkha sandwich. 

In the Zen Samyuktagama Sutra, (volume 33), it is said that there are four kinds of horses: wise ones, skillful ones, poor ones, and delusional ones.
The wise horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver's will, before it sees the shadow of the whip.
The skillful horse will run as well as the first one does, just before the threat of the whip reaches its body.
The third horse will run when it feels pain on its body.
And the delusional horse will only run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones.

You can only imagine how difficult it is for the fourth horse to learn how to run.

Shaming ourselves for having a hard time is not a great recipe for happiness, certainly not for self love, and not even really that effective.
The kindest thing we can do in this situation?
Be dissatisfied. Be confused. Be the living, breathing, personification of Dukkha.
But by all means, please refrain from shooting that second arrow of judgement and shame. 

Something that I find really helpful to do when I hear any admission of difficulty in class is to ask if anyone can relate.
On average, a dozen hands will go up.
You're full of anxiety and your mind was darting all over the place?
Look! You are not alone.
You're feeling desperately behind? Amazing! So are half of us here. 

Normalizing our discomfort can be a healing modality unto itself.
Which is the capital "T" Truth of Dukkha. 
You are not alone, there's nothing to hide, and in fact, you’re in excellent company. 

It’s just Dukkha, baby. And you’re human. 
And you know what? 
Thank you. 
That's exactly why we love you. 

✨ Perspective. Outlook. View. The Sweet Interplay Between Self + World. ✨

In a city the horizon is short because it is between two buildings. 
Think what that length is doing to your mind

--YOKO ONO

Image :: Nick Meek 

Image :: Nick Meek 

Recently I've been on a cross-country road trip with a dear sister-friend of mine. We connected at the Cleveland airport, spent a day loafing at my Grandma's house ( Yay Grandma! ), and then boarded our black rental Chevy Cruz -- wide eyed and Western bound. 

In the 19th Century, when city dwellers had a case of burnout from stress and working too hard (known then as neurasthenia) , doctors would literally prescribe a nature sabbatical-- where one would heal their fried nerves by frolicking in the woods, and by "connecting to their cowboy roots". 

(Disclaimer: Around the same time doctors prescribed dog poop + honey to cure sore throats, so...) 

As a New Yorker, nature lover, and a believer in preventative medicine, the plan was to take a 14 day mediation + writing retreat, housed in a vintage RV in Sedona, AZ. 

Off the grid. Unplugged. Heavenly. 

However, because life is shifty with a penchant for testing our sea-legs, our Sedona host cancelled our reservation the night before we left town. She had been fined for camping the RV illegally. (Dang.)

And so, Sedona was out. 

Illegal activity is not great ju-ju to be entering a retreat with anyways, so we blessed + released the fantasy of our plan, and set our coordinates for Santa Fe.

New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment.

A few dodgy motel rooms, wacky roadside attractions and epic sunrise drives later, I'm here nestled in the mountains of Santa Fe, thanking our Sedona host for canceling. 

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  It's a blessing as much as a prayer. 

The land in Santa Fe feels both fertile and grounding. It's a place where raw quartz and red rocks litter the ground, where the air is dry and restorative and trees are triumphant trapeze artists-- their roots anchored into boulders, suspended sideways on cliffs. 

I feel physically different here. Parched and dusty from the elevated desert air, yes-- but also more connected. Open. Appreciative. And in love with the wide horizon.

Being in the massive, majestic mountains has always had a way of revealing my spectacular smallness in all the best ego-shrinking, heart expanding ways. 

I'm both tiny and part of it all. It's refreshing. Mother Nature's Perspective Tonic. 

Each time I travel, I think of a story that's referenced in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage, from a time when the founder Chogyam Trungpa went on leave. Upon his return a student asked "How was your vacation?" to which Chogyam Trungpa responded "Vacation from what?"

The moral here is that we can never truly vacation because we always take ourselves with us. Our hopes, fears, and desires are stowaways. Just mapped on to a different landscape. 

However I do believe that a change in scenery has the potential to shift our view. That there's a real connection between our beliefs and our exposure. 

Just ask anyone who hasn't met a certain type of person what they think about that type of person. It's probably not pretty.

Lack of exposure breeds biased beliefs. Nothing can grow in an air-tight container.

(Which is one win for 19th century science, at least.) 

Our outlook is the the scene that stands before us.... and it's also a person's general attitude towards life. 

Our perspective is where we're physically located, looking at the scene around us... and it's also our relationship to the experience. 

Inner // Outer  ::  Intrinsic // Extrinsic  ::  View // View

The sweet interplay between Self and World.  

 Of course that doesn't mean I'm a different person in Santa Fe, to Chogyam Trungpa's point. 

However, the physical view from our lush and dusty mountain side has amplified elements that are already there. 

The outer view looks connected; grounded to rock and earth. And so that potential I have to feel grounded and connected is similarly amplified within.

The view is open and spacious, with a panoramic horizon. And so my potential to open is activated. My interior horizon reflects that space. 

The view is a manifestation of nature's appreciation for life. And so, my appreciation of life is heightened; witnessing it in the landscape makes it so within.

Or as they say in Christian faith: As above, so below.

It's all just sweet, sweet interplay. A reflection of view on view

As I get ready to leave our lovely casita retreat for the next leg of our road trip, I'm reminding myself it doesn't just apply here. That a pretty tree-lined block, a rooftop, a bridge--or any access to the sky, and a clean desk with fresh cut flowers can be equally healing views.

We owe it to ourselves to find them: These outlooks that amplify our outlook-- in both mundane and medicinal ways. 

 Onward and Upward,