Laundry Lists and The Dharma V
The Way through Change (feeling it!)
Our study of the traits continues. And what a perfect day to look at the first of the Three Characteristics of Buddhism. Anicca, the Pali word for Impermanence, says so much in one short word with two ‘c’s. Here it is: Everything that arises will pass away. Things that are made will eventually be unmade. Thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, experiences, and all aspects of life will arise, exist for a time and then pass away.
One of my daily “prayers” is, “I remember with compassion and wonder that everyone and everything near and dear to me will change and pass away.” This is one I can’t say enough or think about enough. I want to hold on to everything (especially the stuff that is pleasing to me). And it will all fade and die. All of it. I really can’t take anything with me in the end.
In this season of new arisings there is lots of stuff springing fresh from the ground, in the trees, and in the recently constructed bird nests (not to mention the new bear cubs and fawns). And by November much of this life will have passed away. Winter will arise. It too will pass away. Everything. Everyone.
The extent to which this phrase startles me whenever I say it is the extent to which I hold on to things and people. A friend of mine frequently used the Latin phrase semper idem as reminder of his parent’s essential and paralyzing connection with all things. Always the same.
This is not, by the way, a theological commentary at all. Whatever is eternal, Paul said love was the thing (1 Cor. 13), remains. All else, like a noisy gong, passes away.
Laundry List Trait 5: We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
Relationships are among the many things that change. Adult children are no different than most people in that we cling to relationships that feed us one way or another. For the adult child we find that we also cling to those relationships that bleed us. For us the role of a victim is both natural and comforting. It is this comforting dynamic that is most disturbing to the human psyche; how it is that we choose to torment ourselves with those aspects of relationships (or the relationship itself) that have proven to be harmful…over and over. We love the familiar. We mostly like being around people who act and react as we are similarly accustomed. If our reactions and actions happen to be unhealthy and/or unhelpful we find ourselves doubling down on dysfunction when we seek these very traits in others. Crazy, huh?
Laundry List Trait 10: We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).
It was comforting and disturbing to arrive at my first ACA meeting and find I was surrounded by people who like me are not in touch with their feelings. No, let’s put this more bluntly; people who do not feel anything—ever. What might we feel? Don’t know. Do we feel any joy, sadness, anger or fear? Not much, except the sadness and anger when we grasp the reality of not feeling.
I was told by a therapist when preparing for ordination that I seemed to be sitting on a powder keg of anger. No way! Not me!!! Wrong test results!!!!! Still, I had enough respect for this wise individual to receive what they said under advice and store it (and the entire 50 page report) for future reference. Well, what do you know?! Anger. Yup. A ton of it. Though it took 40 years to begin to get in touch with it. And the truth is that anger still terrifies me (see Trait 3).
Where do all these things lead? The reality of Anicca is incredibly and increasingly a great comfort to me. That which is passing I can bear more easily. I do not have to be a victim to anything, and certainly not to my past patterns. I can learn to welcome and release relationships, experiences, feelings, sensations, and the rest of it. If something or someone stirs up a feeling in me I am learning to feel that…and be grateful.