Changing Unnecessary Suffering
Today it’s March 12, 2015. Yesterday as I drove home around 6 PM the temperature was 57 degrees. I will just say it outright. I like winter. I live in Montana because I love all seasons, every single one of them. But I didn't realize what I liked about winter until I missed it. Winter is our season of rest and recovery; the time to be kind to ourselves. It’s the time to curl up on the couch with a cup of tea during long cold, dark evenings and to get lost in a good book or to catch up on sewing and indoor projects we don’t want to do in summer. It’s the time to nourish ourselves with roasted meats and vegetables and evenings of laughter with friends while sitting around a table. I admit I feel a bit short changed. We've had so much warmth and sun since January, I don’t feel like I've fully cocooned and I feel unready for warmth and weeding. But, it doesn't really matter if I’m ready does it – the time is here for both warmth and weeding.
I love skiing. I was planning for this to be a great ski year, and really it has been I've had a ton of fun skiing and really made an effort to not pass up ski days, even if half have been warm spring days in February. Just being outside in the fresh air and sun so much has been positive. But I was thinking about it, I have a lot of things I love to do and I’d never be able to do them all at once, seasons are helpful. Imagine if all of the following activities had to get fit in at the same time of year: gardening; hiking; sculling; skiing; listening to live music; reading fun books; catching up on sewing projects; and cooking long slow cooked meals for those I love. No, they need seasons!
This leads us to our theme today, have you noticed through what I’m saying that I’m trying to hold onto something that I have no control over? I've been very conscious of this grasping lately. I recognize pretty quickly what I’m doing and laugh at myself and move on. Then I catch myself, later or the next day, looking at the mountains with sadness as the white retreats or feeling the light panic in my chest as I glance out the window and realize things are growing in the gardens and I have to get out there and trim raspberries and clean up dried plants and grasses. Again, I smile; I calm my breath and move back to what’s happening right now. In short, I’m causing my own suffering by being unable to accept what each day brings. By craving something else, I’m creating a suffering, a pull, that doesn't have to be there. Because of my practice, I’m fully aware of this grasping and I catch it pretty quickly, much more quickly than I did in the past. Old habits haven’t totally broken yet, but the suffering I’m creating is minimal.
I’m sure all of you have been witness this week to people creating their own suffering. It is quite amazing to me how much energy people put into hating the time changes in fall and spring. Have you noticed this? People are pretty vehement about it. Perhaps, looking back, you realize you have spent a surprising amount of time grumbling every morning as you feel a bit more tired than usual, or as you realize it’s now dark again when you get up in the morning. We are 5 days in, have you stopped grumbling yet? Is it still the first comment you hear when you get to the office? I was out and about yesterday and heard many grumbly comments about the time change.
It seems to me that the weather is just getting more unpredictable and the time change isn't going away, so imagine, if no matter what the weather brought to us, we just lived in that moment. What would that look like? What’s happening isn't going to change no matter what our reaction, so perhaps instead of throwing a fit, or grumbling and bringing darkness into our own lives, we took a breath, accepted what that moment brought and moved forward. Accepting and moving forward can mean, moving forward to create change if it is something we can change, but it starts with accepting the present moment. This is a powerful practice. It takes time to change habits we've created, but what if just by learning to accept the time change and embrace the light in the evening or whatever changes it brings, you save yourself 2 weeks a year of tired grumpiness. Woohoo! That’s 2 weeks returned to you!
I leave you with these crocuses that I happened by yesterday on the University of Montana campus. As I walked by them, I stopped and turned and just stared at them. I bent down to make sure they were real, and then I smiled. A big smile spread across my face, as I accepted the fate of winter and the beauty of spring. That was my second sign this week, as Wednesday I heard my first Meadowlark.
In what areas do you often cause yourself suffering by grasping after something over which you have no control?