Call off the Search: How I stopped seeking and found peace
Chapter 7: Buddhism
Throughout January and February I meditated almost every morning with the Hare Krishna mantra, following the visit to the temple on New Year’s Eve. The advantage of this mantra is that even if you get distracted, even if your mind wanders whilst you are doing it, as long as you keep saying it, you are still doing it; and what you are doing is chanting God’s name. I was too worried about the neighbours and self conscious about my own voice to chant aloud so I did it in my head, which probably doesn’t help with distraction as if you say it aloud, enunciating each syllable clearly, it is more to hang onto. But still, I credit the Hare Krishna mantra with the purification and development I experienced during these two months: my counselling, working on my OCD, maybe even John getting into Buddhism and us giving up drugs for the best part of a year, who knows, a lot happened from those two months.
In March John started a course in Buddhism, bringing home information sheets to read which I fell on and read each week and we discussed them in preparation for the next week. They advise don’t start with meditation, as most people do, me included, instead start with the theory and the ethics, then do the meditation, because then you have a framework. I look back to how crazy I was when I first started meditating, and realise this makes sense. So on John’s course they didn’t get onto meditation until later, but as they did, I started doing it too. I switched from the Hare Krishna mantra to Buddhist meditation, one day Metta Bhavna and the other day mindfulness of breathing.
Focus on the breath not the breathing, as you follow it, it quietens and disappears, so you think, what am I following, and then, I’m not breathing, I’d better breathe, and then you are focussing on the act of breathing not on following the breath which you are doing consciously, so you are doing two things at once, actively breathing, and following the breath, which doesn’t work. So you have to let go, and let the breath be as it is, sometimes big and fast and gasping, sometimes so faint you can hardly find it, and sometimes disappeared or stopped altogether, but you have to trust your body will take care of breathing when and as it needs to.
I started a different Buddhism course a bit later, each week we were given homework, such as The Four Winds (Loss and Gain, Pain and Pleasure, Praise and Blame, Fame and Obscurity): We were told to pick a pair and focus on that for the week. I focussed on Loss and Gain, or how I specifically in my life seek to avoid loss and sought to gain: thinking about mine and other’s air time in conversations; wanting to be asked questions, wanting to ask questions but not asking them, also like praise and blame or fame and obscurity, at my mum’s seeing an old family friend, I wanted to say, look at me, look what I am, look what I’m into, but he just wanted to talk about old age, house prices, people I don’t know, and although he seemed pleased to see me, he was not interested in any of the things I was interested in, and even poured cold water in my plans, (I felt) and I came home in a bad mood.
But it did have a positive effect, the Buddhism course(s):
Before work, John and me had one of those hugs that are really close, well almost all of the hugs he gives me are like that, where he folds me in really tight, and I put my hand on the base of his neck, in between the shoulder blades, where it always feels hot for me, a healing point/love point, and it felt really good, the hug, and I said, ‘things are good’ and he said, ‘yeah, things are good’, and I said, although I didn’t need to, ‘and we’re not even on drugs’. I went to see my son and as there was no parking at his we went straight to the park and had a walk in the only break in the weather. I did an extra hour of healing at the mind body spirit fair and even though I’d got up early and been out for hours, I felt relaxed and unpressured. I went home and made a complicated new vegan meal effortlessly with no stress.
One night after my Buddhism class:
I stepped out of the double door and into the open air of the top floor of the multi-storey car park. I always park on the top floor, ostensibly for exercise, and while that is true, it’s also because it’s always got plenty of empty spaces and I get anxious about parking. And at the end of an evening or an afternoon of shopping I like to look at the view, the big sky, the cathedrals, the whirling flocks of birds that always seem to be there. My husband and son find my choice of parking annoying and always complain about the six flights of stairs or make us go up in the lift. I do it for me though, for the view, to take away the parking anxiety, to test my fitness, or perhaps, just to give me this moment tonight:
It was cool and warm at the same time, the sky grey with clouds, still light at around 9.30pm. I paused, leaning on the barriers, looking, and I just thought/felt: This is it
Earlier, the teacher had said, ‘if you catch Buddhism… but you may not, you may leave this and go off onto something else’, my neighbour said, ‘Islam’, which was funny because I’d been through an Islam phase a few months back. But I thought, please no… I wanted to say, ‘Don’t let me be out there again’ (like that bit in When Harry met Sally when the couple say to each other, ‘please say I’ll never have to be out there (dating) again’); but I am working on not talking as much and certainly not interrupting, so I don’t.
I have tried things: Islam, Paganism, various different New Age Practices, Hare Krishna , worship of a man, self abasement, therapy, all for three weeks or three months. It’s over
In the car, I put some music on The Stone Roses: This is the one, this is the one she’s waiting for. Windows down, warm cool breeze, lights bright like on MDMA.
Yes, (the clue’s in the title of the book) this turned out to be yet another one of those moments when I think, this is it, I’ve found it, this is the thing, this is what I believe in, that later slips away. And yet, I don’t regard any of it as a waste of time. And even though this was one of the strongest incidents in recent times, as the same Buddhist course later taught me, there is nothing to find.
There is nothing permanent, nothing lasts, nothing exists, only interactions. We all just knock against each other but all our scaffolding stops us connecting properly. Re finding yourself, your identity, personality, Buddhism says there is nothing to find= Scary. We are not fixed, we can change= Comforting. Suffering doesn’t last either. We do have a ‘relative self’- it’s good to be predictable to children (and patients) etc but with others this can be limiting (e.g. how we behave in our family). It’s hard to be your (new)self with family as they like to keep you the same.
The death of spiritual ignorance, is when you see things as they really are, e.g. work. Things are both much better and much worse than you previously thought.
Meditate on our bodies being made of the same things as everything else
Our teacher, in meditation, became aware that a strand of hair, attractive on the head, becomes repulsive in a plate of food. Same with toenails, she put all her nail clippings and hair onto shrine and thought, is it ‘repulsive’ because it reminds us of death and decay?
The mind changes much more than the body; at least the body persists relatively the same week to week, year to year; whilst the mind changes all the time, likes and dislike change. Tastes change with Buddhism (me and The News Quiz on Radio 4, I used to think it was funny, suddenly it just seemed mean). People refine their tastes with Buddhism (or with anything that increases your awareness?)
Where is yourself? Your self? In front? Above? Colour? Shape? Can’t find it? Because it isn’t anywhere; it doesn’t exist. (So therefore who did that mean senior manager hurt when she told me off on Friday? No one).
It is the clinging to the sense of self that causes all the suffering.
Get out of yourself. With more happiness and helping others. A cause outside of themselves, a musician, artist, all else swept aside in the service of what is. Really focussed; most people don’t do this and are dissipated. What is it that we really want and go for it. Hone in one something. Realise why we dissipate our energies.
See ways that we let life happen to us rather than directing life in a way that can be more fulfilling.
Buddhism advocates doing creative things, artistic things, if you decide you can, e.g. live without much money etc. Self expression is a generous act.
‘The spiritual life is a continual process of purification and elimination of unskilful states.’
‘Our experience is much richer than we realise. We are much better and much worse than we realise’ Deeper meditation helps to integrate this.
Buddhism helped, but I don’t know about the future… don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater- this clear awareness is great, don’t mess it up with caffeine, drinking, etc, yoga is good, meditation is probably good.
Everything I’ve done has been part of what got me here, but what got me right here was not meditating for a week or so, and going to bed early.
I’m even wondering if helping others really is all that, maybe it could just be about yourself, and those around you…
Re working, re healing, re thinking up an alternative career: when do I get to just enjoy life as it is, to do what I’m doing with both feet and not always be thinking I should be doing something else?
So right now, reading this, I feel wistful: I feel, I want to meditate, I want to do the Buddhism course, I want to get back into being spiritual again. But what would that do? What do I think that would do? I could do a load of yoga and meditating, do more healing, whenever I do it it feels so good, I want to focus on that… But what about the writing, not sure what is happening with that… How do I get to a place where I can conceptualise what it is I am doing- every time I get to where I think ‘this is it’, it changes, so where is my vantage point? There isn’t one, or there is, but it shifts from (and form) moment to moment. Suggestion: Pick one and write from that? What is the vantage point that I want to select and choose to write from- with so much choice I can choose one- after Buddhism, when I am into Krishnamurti? When I am just coming back from practical house selling and working mode? When I am back to meditating? When I am reflecting on all the things that have got me here? All the spiritual processes, yoga, body work, healing, reading, MDMA?
Why not just admit that there’s nowhere else you’d rather be than here: waking up on the massage table and realising, I am the kind of person who has this in her diary, and this, and this, and does this, and does this, and does this, and laughs at this and cries at this, and cannot watch horror films and is scared of big ships and on and on and on and on…
- Work going both really well and really badly, as always
- Loving being married at the same time as longing for more time alone
- Ceasing all seeking behaviour yet knowing this is just another ‘thing’ I’m doing on the path
- Happy with life as it is and thinking of new things to do and be
Everything is good, you are just making up things to worry about because you are scared of realising how good things are.