As some of my older friends may have noticed, I’ve been kidnapped and reprogrammed. I used to be this guy who would rant insufferably for thousands of words, thinking I was clever and “real”, only to realize that I was just another loudmouth with an internet connection and nothing better to do than complain. I can smile at my former self, and even bring him around for a “Hey, remember me?” appearance once in a while, but it is my hope that I stay reprogrammed because I kinda like this version of me better than the previous one.
But, my intrepid readers, you ask: “How? And why?”
I don’t want to make this an exceedingly long post but there has to be some background given. Let’s just say that I never felt right in my own skin, that there was something about me that I was hiding and suppressing because I didn’t want to be judged or mocked. To add to it, I had a crappy worldview that always saw myself as powerless and unable to affect change in my life, and I was entitled, oh ye gods was I entitled. I thought that because I had been wronged by the world that it owed me something in return for my suffering.
I didn’t realize that the suffering was the reward. I also believed that the suffering, the pain, and the dismal negativity would go on forever. This was what life was and anyone who said otherwise was only lining up to betray you and kick you when you were down again. Hope was for fools, because we’re all going to die anyway in the end, so why care, WHY CARE? WHY BE VULNERABLE?
Why play the game at all?
All I wanted was my blanket and my teddy bears. To be held and told it was going to be okay, and have it be true. I wanted my fears to be ameliorated and my little, inner child to be validated and I could not do it myself, not until recently, because I was so terrified. For years I carried a burden of shame, and despite people around me telling me I didn’t have to, I didn’t listen, because to cast aside the burden would be to admit that my suffering was worthless.
But it wasn’t. Maybe prolonged longer than necessary, but there is value in suffering.
I first learned about the concept of Samsara from my good friend Mako Allen, one of the hosts of the Big Little Podcast. On the podcast he spoke the words that gut-punched me in a way nobody else had been able to. “Samsara” is a place or idea in which a state of permanent bliss or suffering is attained. As Mako has said, Buddhists have a word for that: Bullshit. There is no such place of everlasting joy and goodness, just as there is no permanent place of pain and anguish. In our goal-driven, get-there-first, die-with-the-most-toys culture, we are taught that these are the ONLY two possible outcomes in life, and that is reinforced through social institutions and religion alike. Was it any wonder, then, why I, among many others, couldn’t make things click for a long time? Everything was this Binary of Samsara: Succeed OR fail, Heaven OR Hell, Ecstasy or Torment, Conformity OR Rejection.
But that’s all bullshit, right? Because we experience ALL of those things at one time or another and we will again. Except for the literal Heaven and Hell since those are supernatural places, of course.
When I realized that I didn’t have to keep putting myself through suffering, that I didn’t have to hold onto my anger, that I wasn’t powerless at all and that it was taking more of my power to cling to my negativity than it would to let it go, I was slowly able to release my grip and start to let it slip away.
“Look for hope and it will find you.” ~ Devin Townsend, Universal Flame.
The most amazing thing that I realize about my past self is that I was a man obsessed with thinking that if I could just stand still for a moment, I could regroup and move on. Yet, the universe is always in motion. Even when you are sitting in meditation, you’re hurtling through the cosmos at speeds unfathomable to human perception. We’re never really in the same place twice. We are on a journey whether we want to be or not. There’s no stopping the machine. I decided to explore it instead.
By journeying into those areas I was afraid of, I was able to replace what I had lost with some truly amazing friendships and revelations. Instead of a cycle of cynicism and fear, I was able to start fresh with a cycle of hope, knowledge, and conscious movement. Yes, bad things will still happen, I’ll still suffer and experience pain. I’m still going to die someday, but I’ll be damned if I go clawing inexorably at a wall that pushes me forward no matter what.
In all of this, I am still, and always will be, a student. There’s no graduation or degree that says you’ve learned what there is to know about life. There’s no end to the road. Life is the road. To move forward now with self-acceptance and self-love, to have the capacity for hope and forgiveness and to love others without thought of reciprocation, to, as Gandhi said, be the change I want to see… that’s huge, and I hope I don’t lose sight of that even during the dark times…
Plus, I’ll always have my blanket and teddy bears.