Dear Still Water Friends,
A couple of days ago a young friend gave me an unintentional verbal slap “up side the head.” He was talking about his difficulties having just learned he has a serious illness as he emerged from several years of drug abuse. Last week he’d told his parents about his condition and was struggling with some of the medical and financial issues as well. It was a lot for anyone to handle, and this person hadn’t even graduated college yet.
Then he came to the hardest part. “While last week was tough, this week is even harder in a way. Because there has been nothing magical, nothing exciting. It’s just an average week; I want something to happen.”
While I felt sorrow for him and a longing to help him see things differently, I also had a moment of self-recognition. After our conversation ended, I came back to think about that feeling of wanting something more, of what some might call “unsatisfactoriness.” It comes in many forms for me, but I experience it as the same raw emotional zing. I may understand it at different times as emptiness, boredom, loneliness, or feeling lost, but there’s that sense of wanting more—fill me, entertain me, be with me, show me the way, make me feel differently.
This elemental feeling can drive me in different ways depending on the circumstances and whether I let it take control. It can ignite my habit of emotional eating, or I can sit with it and see if I’m actually physically hungry as I get in touch with my body. It can also serve as an indicator that I want connection, and I can reach out to friends and recognize the same emotional tone in others.
On Thursday, we’ll talk about “unsatisfactoriness” after we recite the Five Mindfulness Trainings. This week, we’re due to focus on the third training, True Love. While we tend to think of this as the sex training, I hope we can leave our cultural and religious baggage about sex at the reception desk. The training calls on us to recognize when we’re reaching out to people from “true love”—with understanding, compassion, joy and equanimity—and to differentiate that from when we’re caught up in craving, loneliness, self-absorption, and a sense of hollowness. This training doesn’t judge sex as good or bad, it’s asking us to look at our motivation and intentions around sex and to consider how they fit with our mindfulness practice. Can the third training be seen as a discussion of how to handle our sense of unsatisfactoriness? How do you experience unsatisfactoriness, and what role does it play in your life and practice?
I hope you can join us.
Settling into Silence: Still Water Practice Retreat. Friday, May 4- Sunday, May 6, at Charter Hall in Perryville, MD.
Touching Life Deeply: A Day of Practice. Sunday, May 26, at Blueberry Gardens in Ashton, Maryland.
Lotuses, Food, and Mindful Friends. Sunday, July 15, 2012, at the the National Park Service’s Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens.
Third Mindfulness Training: True Love
Aware of the suffering caused by sexual misconduct, I am committed to cultivating responsibility and learning ways to protect the safety and integrity of individuals, couples, families, and society. Knowing that sexual desire is not love, and that sexual activity motivated by craving always harms myself as well as others, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without true love and a deep, long-term commitment made known to my family and friends. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to prevent couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. Seeing that body and mind are one, I am committed to learning appropriate ways to take care of my sexual energy and cultivating loving kindness, compassion, joy and inclusiveness – which are the four basic elements of true love – for my greater happiness and the greater happiness of others. Practicing true love, we know that we will continue beautifully into the future.