Wednesday, January 08, 2014

DIARY 122 ~ The Marking of Sorrows

'Understanding the cause of sorrow robs sorrow of its sting' *

There are days, thankfully not that frequent, when a dank dungeon of despair quietly settles itself around my mind, shutting me off temporarily from the pleasures of the world, friends or partner. 'Nothing is worth making an effort, its all futile, so why bother?' It can be hard to break out of, and even harder for others to break into. Like all sorrows it bears universally recognisable characteristics, but has particular quirks personal to me attached to it like limpets. Sorrows, being so closely felt, can by virtue of their proximity feel distinct and unique to us. We reform our sorrows in our own image. Saying 'I have never felt this way before' and lay our head down upon the pillow of sorrow. Sorrows dress up in unfamiliar clothing to make them appear new, but they aren't, which explains why they can catch one unaware. They bear common antecedents and are really old old friends. The conditions causing them to arise may alter, but one component cause remains often doggedly the same, myself and the mental/emotional responses I have towards them.

Over the years I've understood the causes and conditions that summon these self- imprisoning feelings. I've named those demons, given them names of cartoon characters, burnt confessions of my unskilfulness, chanted purification mantras and done long long rituals, all in order to shrink the deadly seriousness I habitually give to them. These approaches worked to an extent, they have over time adjusted how I perceive these outward manifestations of what is a more deeply embedded view. That view, by virtue of it being deeply embedded, has proved more tricky to get a handle on, let alone understand.  When you touch upon such areas, words and phrases swim around attempting to settle on and define them. Mostly they don't, and only designate the emotional space they occupy. They emerge as catch all phrases like poor self-view, that lack a specific history of any personal distinction.

These deep seated views, often have their foundations before self-conscious memory. Originating before individual history begins, when our sense of our selves is not fully switched on, all that is remembered are raw unfiltered emotions. These days I think they say this is before two years old. Judged from a karmic perspective these might even go beyond this present life and times. So if we are looking to mark out verifiable causes for all our sorrows, we probably wont find them. They are more than likely unnameable, which is why they are still able to provide an unexpected sting. A lot of the pain we experience around our sorrows is not the basic feeling, but our emotional responses to the basic feeling. Rubbing salt into our own wounds. By weakening these responses, the sharpness and intensity of the sting can be eased.

Then we are left with the basic feeling. Even as we move away from overreacting to it, we are also weakening the over identification we have with it. What drives any sorrow deeper into us is the essentially self focused preoccupation that burns with acidity until it corrupts the core of who we are. The more we dwell on it hoping to find its source, the worse it apparently gets. If we catch this whilst its happening, then we may be able to stand back from it, creating the distance to find a more helpful viewpoint. Sorrows can then settle into a broader, less self focused perspective. Instead of identifying with ourselves we identify that we share this with everyone, and this can have an unexpected neutralising effect. By this sorrows lose their uniqueness, and can no longer sting us in quite the same way again.

* Annie Besant.

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