June 4, 2012

Changing Weather (& Emotions)

After a long, cold winter, we crave spring. And when it arrives we rejoice. We bask in the sun and mindfully look for new plants bursting from the soil. I think weather is a wonderful metaphor for our changing emotions. Weather changes. No matter how long winter feels; no matter how hot a particular stretch of summer feels; no matter the length of time without rain--the weather eventually changes. One thing we can count on: change.

Change is actually a wonderful thing with regard to emotion. We can trust in the fact that difficult emotions--fear, anxiety, grief, sadness, shame--will not last forever. Eventually they morph into other emotions, even if for brief moments. Our fear that disturbing emotions might last forever is an added layer of suffering. On the flip side, we also add suffering by wanting the positive emotions--joy, excitement, inspiration, love, acceptance--to actually last forever. In Buddhist language, we cling to pleasant emotions and are averse to unpleasant emotions. Interestingly it's the clinging and the aversion that cause us suffering. It's not the emotions themselves--that's just the normal stuff of life.

The greatest benefit I've received from meditation (and, in particular, meditation retreats) is the know-it-in-my-bones experience that emotions do indeed change. I might be in great pain (physical and emotional) one day, but the next day can be completely different. And just knowing this makes the difficult times easier to work with. I trust that the emotional weather will change. This allows for just a little space and softness around the clinging and aversion--and that space is where I can find peace.

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