Being human means that you get to experience an enormous range of emotion. Some of these feel great, and because they are so pleasurable you want more of them: happiness, bliss, contentment. Some of these feel awful, and because they are so painful you want less of them: disappointment, rejection, betrayal.
It’s the clinging and aversion the ancients caution us against. The chasing pleasure and the running from pain that creates a cycle of exhausted dissatisfaction and can be so destructive. Our suffering is there.
The challenge is to remain present with the moment and allow emotions, thoughts, and sensations to come and go. The invitation is to come to stillness, so that you can slow down enough to notice and observe the processes that are running in the background. Meditation is how we practice this. Mindfulness is what comes from practice.
The intention is to be present with what’s happening. To welcome and become intimate with your experience. It is a willingness to truly live your life.
Do you know this poem, The Guest House, by Rumi?
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
I like to imagine that I have a Guest Book, and for every emotion that arises, I can greet as a visitor and invite them to sign. Hello, Delight, welcome and please sign the Guest Book. . . Hello, Anxiety, you’re back? Ok, please sign the Guest Book.
And what I’m noticing is that once I do this — acknowledge them, name them — it allows me to experience a full range of emotion without being taken for a ride by any of them. The emotions still show up, yet they are less sticky. My relationship to them shifts in a subtle and meaningful way. I have all these emotions. But they don’t have me. They’re not in charge. I’m no longer running towards them or away from them. It’s lovely and sweet.
It’s beautiful, this being human.
Savor all of it.