Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life


Leave a comment

Triggers

I had the revelation the other day that becoming Buddhist is a bit like being in recovery from drug addiction in that you’re wandering along, feeling like you’ve conquered the thing, when all of a sudden there’s a particular sort of trigger that throws you back into danger. If you’re an addict, the trigger might be a breakup, an illness, sad news, who knows, and the danger is that you’ll start to use again. If you’re working on your mindfulness, the danger is falling back into anxiety, depression, self-loathing, and attachment.

This could sound incredibly lofty, I realize.

But I’m serious. The other day around 7 p.m. I told Marc how much my meditation practice is helping me with my career angst. When I sit every day, I told him, I feel less sure that my book sucks and that I will never achieve success. When I sit every day I feel less attached to its success at all. I feel proud of the work–but not too proud!–and good about how far I have come. I have this realistic understanding of process, of the path, of the journey that the book and I are on together.

I am much less hard on myself.

I said all of this, and meant it, and really felt I had had a breakthrough.

At 8 p.m. I checked my email to find that a school colleague had had an awesome career success. (One I instantly felt he hadn’t deserved, because I was being petty.) And just like that, my whole night was ruined. I started to panic about how little writing I have done this week, and how little writing I will be able to do this whole month, what with all the papers to grade and not being able to afford more childcare for Lex, and since I am so shamefully bad at managing everything, and because I waste time with blog posts and jealousy–and because, let’s face it, I have no talent to speak of, anyway………………

Yes, folks, I got triggered.

Yuck.

The mindful Buddhist response, of course, would be to notice the trigger and move on. And I am relieved to say that at this, at least, I succeeded in doing what Pema Chödrön says we should do: stop making everything such a big deal.

“I’m jealous of J.,” I said to Marc. “I am just going to admit it.” And saying it helped immensely.

But of course, that doesn’t solve the thing. I’m sure the addict who resists the fix still kind of wants it for a few days and feels bad for having almost gone there.

More, I realize the world is filled with triggers.

And that, I think, is what this is all about.

Advertisements


3 Comments

The Infertility Dukkha

I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a bit of a tough weekend. Pulling one of my Osho Zen Tarot cards for myself on Sunday morning, I got the “Turning Inward” card, which felt appropriate since Saturday I definitely shirked most offers to hang out, be social, or do much of anything besides be home, quiet, and mourn a little.

I have been pulling the Zen Tarot cards for myself all along in this fertility/infertility journey, and while I guess if you held a gun to my head and asked me whether I really believe in tarot I’d have to say no, I nonetheless adore those little cards because they always seem to remind me of something concrete, grounded, and real about whatever illusory situation I turn to them for. And occasionally, there is some magic, as when I asked last spring, “when will I become pregnant?” and pulled this card:

DSCI0196Can you see? It says “Patience” underneath a photo of a pregnant woman. I nearly fainted when it came up in my hand.

But that was months ago, and since then I tend to pull cards like “Turning In,” cards that are reminders, sure, but not exactly…magic.

And I could do with some magic. Friday we went to the infertility clinic. The news? Not great. Not many eggs; eggs getting old; eggs not being released with enough oomph. The technical name for all of this is diminished ovarian reserve. Or as I think of it: old lady syndrome. The doctor wants us to begin infertility treatments after Christmas.

Oh, dukkha. Blessed be for Marc, who on the way home initiated a tough but concrete/grounded conversation about our good fortune. “I want this to happen,” he said. “But if it doesn’t, we have so many blessings already.” I nodded and agreed through a few tears. He is right, of course.

My challenge, as usual, is attachment. I wanted so badly to be able to just make a baby, the old-fashioned way. Without all this soul-searching and medical intervention and acupuncture and mindfulness and whatever else it will take. It once felt so simple, the possibility, like something that could just happen naturally.

“It could,” said the doctor. “I would not be shocked.” But she didn’t sound too optimistic, either.

I will say something positive: mindfulness helped me in that appointment, and afterwards. It helped me to remember to take every step as it comes. And mindfulness has helped me move more gracefully from Saturday’s grief to Monday’s more expansive thinking about infertility treatments, about blessings, and about pausing to think and make decisions instead of rushing headlong in.

Lex is being extremely cute this afternoon, in that way that mischievous, spirited three-year-olds are cute (he is sitting on the toilet singing “this little light of mine” at the moment). A bit ago he came up to me on the couch and threw his arms around my neck.

“You’re super cute right now, Mom,” he told me.

Talk about a blessing.