Today I am consumed with thoughts about Australia. I can’t stop thinking of all the animals. It is so incredibly painful to think about. I can’t even begin to watch the footage. I am actively avoiding Facebook. I feel disturbed and am spending a lot of energy trying not to receive information. I do not want to know. I do not want to hear.
As I am doing this, I am aware that my actions or inactions are flying directly in the face of what my spiritual practice asks of me. I am not supposed to shrink away from painful emotions. The whole of my religion about leaning into those hard places and breathing in the anguish and sending out light and love.
But I don’t want to. I cannot think about the animals in pain. It seems to ask too much from me. Any image of an animal in distress or a person being hurt or injured seemingly too much for my psyche to take. I want to let other people do the emotional heavy lifting. I can pray but I am praying at a safe emotional distance literally half a world away.
As usual my behavior is counterproductive. I am not helping anyone in fire stricken Australia with my actions. While I may not be actively hurting them, my resistance to their plight certainly not helping them. However, I am actively hurting me. I am hurting myself by my unwillingness to look at why I have such a visceral reaction. This is a hard emotional place for me and I need to lean in. I am not joking when I say that every single fiber of my being wants to shut it all down and pretend it isn’t happening. It feels like too much for me. Makes me want to curl up in a ball and not get up.
Unlike years before, where I would do everything in my power to avoid whatever painful situation was ripe in my life, today I am aware of my need to avoid. I am trying to rest in the place where I begin to runaway. I am trying to stay in that gap where I feel the pain and then go away. It is tricky business because I am very adept at running. Sometimes, I have left the building before I am even aware. Then I have to chase myself down. I feel kind of like my own paparazzi. Chasing myself down with the camera and lights blaring...trying to get my attention. The avoidant me in a coat and dark glasses, desperately trying to get away from whatever scandal I am being pursued over. The whole situation sucks.
Because I am being more successful right now in only running short distances away, I am spending more time running in place. I am not standing completely still with the horrible images and feelings. But I am moving in place with the pain. Not yet able to be like a mountain and just allow the weather or natural disaster to scar my landscape. I am more like a piece of fabric in the wind, dancing so as to minimize my exposure.
I can see why the mountain is such a good metaphor. Despite the weather, earth shifting, natural disasters, the mountain just takes it. It remains even when parts of it fall to its base. Sometimes with heavy rain, it melts into the surrounding basin. In my geographic area we know this all too well, having it only been two years ago yesterday when our own mountain liquefied carrying 23 people to a mud soaked death. My head doesn’t want to feel the pain of this loss either. I didn’t know any of the people but I felt their pain exquisitely. I am brought to tears just writing this.
Sometimes I feel like my heightened sense of feeling such a gift. I feel things too deeply. Then at times like this when reminded of the tragic mudslide or an entire continent on fire, I am not so grateful for my emotionality. I kind of wish to be more callous. I would like a little more protection from the elements of life.
But I know there is no such thing. There is no salve for life. There is no safety from trauma and loss and sadness and death. These are immutable facts of living. I do not care for them but that does absolutely nothing to change them except hurt me by trying to insist that things be other than what they are.
I resist and what I resist persists. I am disturbed this morning about my inability to shield myself from the pain of all the loss going on in Australia. I do not want to see or hear or feel. It feels like too much. I know that I should be strong and stand tall and be brave. Be like Chögyam Trungpa who as a young monk in the monastery saw some boys killing a puppy in the street. He was too far away to do anything about it. So he stood there and radiated out compassion for the puppy and the boys. Even as I write this, it seems totally fucked up. I think to myself, he should have run down the hill and done something. Standing by is not ok while injustice happens. But I know that what he did was right. He would have never gotten there in time. Even if he did, he likely would not have been able to stop it. The best thing he could do was to pray for all the beings caught in this horrible situation. I do not like even thinking about this. I do not want to hear about stuff like this.
I am now painfully aware that this is my spiritual work. To not run away from the pain. To stand and watch and send compassion to all beings. Just writing this makes me shiver. I do not want to do that. I do not want to watch the news or see the posts online. I want hide.
So this is where my spiritual work is today. To be able to at least allow myself, that when confronted with this horrific tragedy to not turn away. To breathe it in and radiate out peace, love and light and relief. Maybe someday, I will be more able to seek out these types of situations and bring something other than resistance, fear and sadness. I am pretty sure Australia does not need anymore of those. I am quite sure they have enough.
For today, when my mind returns to the images I have seen, I will stop, breathe it in and send out a prayer that all beings be relieved of suffering....to include myself.