A deep existential melancholy fell upon me early in this New Year, like a dense fog it shrouded and wove itself into the bedrock of everything I encountered. Like the weather, it did blow over, retreating over the horizon, out of sight and of mind. Covered over once more with the cheery disposition that I habitually present to the world. Yet everything that arises and falls does so in response to all the internal and external conditioning phenomena fluctuating and changing. So this view I have of an immutable me, however much I might reify it, is subject to the same subtle adjustments, shifting transitions, whether slow or rapid in time. Moods change, but each mood change itself taints and colours my next experience. It changes because my response to responses changes, and so it goes - like dominoes.
So I had this existential weariness compiled from a wide range of influences and responses. Initially it seemed triggered on Boxing Day by sitting through a film I was not remotely interested in. To be further compounded by two days of unremitting boredom manning Reception at work. After the never ceasing run of activity in the run up to Christmas, I was looking forward to that relentless sequence of planning and buying, to stop. But that was when the mood slapped me in the face. It showed me exactly how tired I was, physically, mentally and spiritually. Nothing seemed worth lighting a candle for any more, let alone putting further effort into. Why indeed should I bother?
My back had been troubled since the end of November. I spend most days, these days, trying to manage or minimise the conditions that cause the arising of joint pain. The Osteo-arthritis in my hands continues at a pace. Every joint from my wrist and up the thumb having become tender and sharply painful three months ago, and remained so. When I was younger I'd help my Grandma open jam jars because her Osteo meant she no longer could. At its worst this is becoming my situation too. Humbled by no longer being able to carry heavy objects in one hand alone. I'm also getting the feeling the Osteo is beginning to set up shop in my elbows too. This tenderness in the joints means my sleep is regularly restless so I regularly awaken tired, stiff and aching.
When all these conspire to be at there worst simultaneously, I can feel so weary. I have in the past relished putting my energy into things. But now, anything I do of a physical nature has a painful consequence either instantly or the next day, and sometimes can linger on for days, weeks, even months. The pain, aided and abetted by my response to it, has a draining effect on my energy. I am having to get used to becoming easily tired, adapting my work rate to assume a slower and more measured pace.
Unsurprisingly my daily meditation practise has collapsed. I haven't the energy or resolve to discipline myself on two fronts, just getting my body up and ready for work is enough. If I forced myself to meditate any remaining desire to practise the spiritual life would be swallowed up in corrosive resentment. Reluctantly, I've had to let go of any expectation that I can, or should, meditate regularly. On retreat, with no other drains on energy, then I can meditate. Another conditioning factor is that for many years my meditation hasn't exactly been sparkling with life, it's become rather innocuous. The motivation to arise early for yet another grapple with a lifeless squib, is just not there any more. Should conditions change then this situation might change, though ironically its my own physical conditions I don't have complete control over.
This means the major arena for my spiritual practise is now firmly in everyday life. Specifically two areas; how I respond and deal with the inevitability of decreasing energy and increasing physical limitations; and the creativity I can bring to my work day to day. One strongly affects the other ,so inextricable linked are they. This incipient dwindling of my physical capacities is the first substantial whiff of my body ageing and ultimately its impermanence. Arising from this swamp is the sour hearted beast of unsatisfactoriness, blowing hot and cold on my sense of who I am,the foundations of how I like to be, in myself, and in the world. Oh bugger!