Throughout my healing process I have been drawn to the Buddhist religion, finding comfort in Buddha’s teachings on sorrow and how to live a life full of gratitude, compassion, and love. I was in awe of one of my friends who has a strong, unwavering faith in God. I asked him, “Why is it in our deepest sorrows we seek comfort in a higher power and when everything is joyous we shy away from it? Does my sudden interest in faith make me a hypocrite? Am I unworthy of holiness after such a long absence?” He reminded me that spiritual strength grows over time and that it often rears its beautiful head during difficult times because it is a complement to our healing process. Whoever or whatever you believe in, you will be guided.
I have been particularly drawn to the Tae Te Ching which says that for every 10,000 joys there are 10,000 sorrows. In this teaching Buddha defines compassion as “the enduring emotion of pathos” or enduring the emotions of life, whether it’s from joy or sorrow. He teaches that when we embrace the joy and sorrow of living it becomes our greatest strength because it is the “surest way to divine Oneness and to healing.”
I find solace in these teachings because it provides meaning and purpose to the difficulties we face. Buddha didn’t deny that there is happiness in life, but he pointed out it does not last forever. Eventually everyone meets with some kind of suffering.
There is happiness in life,
happiness in friendship,
happiness of a family,
happiness in a healthy body and mind,
…but when one loses them, there is suffering.
I have found that the greatest challenge in practicing my faith is being able to find gratitude in the difficult things – my diagnosis, a friend’s hurtful comments, a devastating heartbreak – but somehow making an intentional effort to practice gratitude towards those situations has brought a kind of grace and love to my life. For every difficult situation you face it will inevitably teach you something about yourself. Now, even if I’m not feeling particularly grateful, I will offer up thanks.
For example, the other day I was irritable and angry with a friend for the insensitive, hurtful comments he made about my diagnosis. I stewed on it all day only making myself more angry. On the quiet drive home, I reminded myself of Buddha’s teachings on cultivating compassion and gratitude. So I said out loud, “[name of friend], I am grateful to you for being a jackass because I have learned I cannot give more than I can sanely give right now.” Obviously, my use of the word jackass and the need to repeatedly say those words shows my practice needs some work, but the very act of offering up gratitude instantly brought a sense of calm to my demeanor. I felt my heart opening up with compassion. We both deserved to heal and recover without bringing the other into our own pit of darkness. The kindest thing to do for both of us was to part ways. I understood what my limitations were. I understood what his were. In that moment I learned in every situation there is the potential to meet Buddha or God or whoever/whatever you believe in. You only have to open your heart to the possibility.