Thursday, August 11, 2011

Complex, not complicated

Life is complex, but it doesn't need to be complicated. Modern living is busy, busy, busy. We have grocery shopping, laundry, jobs, cars that require maintainence, and homes that need cleaning. Add children to the mix and you are probably searching for a 25th hour hidden in some pocket dimension. That said, as complex as things get, they don't have to be complicated.

We heap on all sorts of extra drama to situations, and then wonder why life is so hard. The other day I caught myself in the middle of one of my internal diatribes. Self-pity, anger, and frustration were the main cast and I had given them complete license to run the show.

"Why does this have to happen to me?"

"The whole world is crazy!"

"If only..."

You know the routine. Couple that with physical tension, and I was about to scream.

And then out of nowhere I spotted my role in all this. I wasn't sitting passively watching this unfold. Quite the contrary: I was complicating the situation by adding all these new layers to my hurt.

Suffering is optional.

I spotted how I was injuring myself and stopped. The anger remained, but I wasn't feeding it with a fictional storyline where I was the victim of some injustice. I've read "Just do the dishes" countless times; now I was "just angry."

It wasn't pleasant and I didn't enjoy being mad, but it was a traceless, unencumbered anger. It came and it went.

Life is complex, riddled with details and responsibilities. But we're the ones who make it complicated by resisting what's unfolding at this present moment, by spinning these soap operas in our minds. Most of us are much better artists than we give ourselves credit for.

The problem, I think, is that we believe our own stories and don't even realize when we're trapped inside of our thoughts. The goal of Buddhism is to wake up. The first step, though, is to realize when we're asleep at the wheel.

Moment by moment by moment.

Photo borrowed from Creative Commons flickr user: AJC1.


  1. Hey ZennBackAgain,
    This is a really nice post. It's true, it's amazing how much drama we add to situations. Your example was subtle, here's one that's extreme: someone close to me has spent years thinking that former colleagues are bugging her home phone and even cellphone, no matter where she moves. It's a lot of suffering for her, it keeps people away form her, and I think the people who suffer most are the ones around her who don't believe this but can't talk her out of it.
    Here's another example, back to the more subtle. So I'm in New York for the hurricane. I'm staying with my boyfriend and we're on the 18th floor in a fine region, so no worries. Yesterday we did some last minute grocery shopping and as you can imagine it was extremely crowded. I felt grateful to have a meditation practice because it helped me step back. I was interested in the situation and felt calm in the middle of the traffic. Some people had a sense of humor, and plenty of people were quite stressed and angry. So, I was glad to have a practice, but practice doesn't flatter us: I noticed how much judging I was doing. "Ah, I'm calm, and those people probably don't meditate, and they're not calm, they just don't know what to do," these feelings of superiority coming up. The path is endlessly humbling...after I noticed this, I spoke to a woman in line who was really nice and had a 7 week old baby, and this was fun. Then my boyfriend and I left, and, as impermanence would have it, the whole thing, including my judgments of superiority, were gone.
    The Dharma is there every minute you notice it.