Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Go ahead and pout.

'Tis the season to be jolly.

But what if you're not?

What if you're sad? Grieving? Lonely?

Well, you'd better not be. That's the message we get -- and not just during the winter holidays. That's the message advertising is built on. Any unhappiness can be overcome with a new car/bra/yogurt/romantic match. That's the truth of suffering and the cause of suffering: Life is unsatisfactory, but something outside of us can give us satisfaction.

We think that, but then -- through meditation-- we begin to touch in with our inherent richness and see that we already are enough.

That doesn't mean that we'll never feel bad again. Even the Buddha -- who knew non-self and impermanence as much as anyone -- grieved when his friend died. Accepting the fluid nature of existence doesn't insulate you from pain.

But you can know when you are sad that you are sad -- and not reflexively grab for a pint of ice cream to make it go away. (That doesn't work, anyway.) Know that you are grieving when you are grieving and let yourself explore the textures of grief: how it shifts, how its colors bleed and morph, how it thins and then coagulates, spreads, and shrinks.

Our society is uncomfortable with unhappiness. When we see someone who is unhappy, we want to cheer them up, send them flowers, make them smile. When we do that, we give them the message that sadness is a flaw and must be fixed or must be hidden.

Sometimes, though, sadness is the heart's wise response.

And sometimes you'd better cry.

Pouting, though. Maybe not.

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