Alright, before you roll your eyes or fear that I have shaved my head (although I did cut my hair pretty short yesterday) and am moving to Tibet, please read on.
I believe in the adage that a life unexamined is not worth living. To that end, I spend a great deal of time thinking about all manner of things. Who do I want to be? How can I make the world a better place? What is my purpose here? And, of course, the dreaded question: What is the meaning of life?
My self-examination of late has led me to focus on religion and my personal beliefs. I'm not sure how or why I started researching Buddhism, because now, after several weeks, it feels like something that has always been there. While I have not converted to Buddhism, I do a great deal of reading about it, online research and watching of documentaries. I will admit to having a small crush on the Dalai Lama. Something about the way his eyes crinkle when he laughs. For a 76-year-old man, he has really nice upper arms. Must be all that yoga.
So what have I learned that I can apply in my life? First, I've learned that focusing outward, away from myself, to my fellow human beings, removes the burden of worry. If you are only thinking about yourself, you can become consumed with worry. My worries are absurdly insignificant in light of the suffering we can see all around us. I begin to ask myself what I can do to help others in whatever small ways I can. Compassion. Kindness. These things heal us.
Also, I've started to accept (although I have a long ways to go) that everything changes. The Buddha said that the reason we feel dissatisfied all the time is because we don't understand the impermanence of life and everything around us. This desire to have things, to hold onto things and people, to never want anything to change, to never want anything to break or be lost, to never want anyone or anything to die.....it causes, what he called, suffering. Dissatisfaction. When I apply this to my own thought process, it is astounding to me. It's like this: remember when you were 25, young and vibrant with a body of death? And you'd look in the mirror and think how fat you were? Fast forward to 50 and look at a picture of yourself then. You realize how fabulous and skinny you were and you wonder why you spent one second criticizing your body. Dissatisfaction. What a waste of time.
Oh, let's face it....I am still longing for the perfect Lady Purse, I still want to fit into jeans I wore 3 years ago, I still mourn (just a little) for a job that allowed me to travel the world. But I can feel the grip of these dissatisfactions starting to loosen on my heart. In this moment, in this present moment, there is sunshine and birds, a gentle ticking of a clock, a quietness. My heart feels grateful.