- 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?
That's exactly why we love you.