Monday, March 23, 2015

3-23-2015 Entry: Enlightenment and the Inherent Beauty of Suffering


Hello everybody! I want to apologize for not posting for a few days. There were some personal life issues going on towards the end of last week that made it rather difficult for me to focus on anything productive, let alone taking pictures of myself to post on here. I plan to take pictures tonight to post in retrospect for my 4 week HRT anniversary which occurred on Friday.

With regards to the personal issues I don’t really want to elaborate too much but suffice it to say that the culmination of the various rejections I’ve felt from the women in my life over the last few weeks/months came to a spearhead and drove me into a rather deep state of depression and feelings of isolation. My mother and her lack of enthusiasm about my transition, my wife and our general marital issues surrounding communication, and a misunderstanding with a very close and beloved friend all came together in a perfect storm of unmet needs and overwhelming feelings of resentment and pain. Add to all of that the fact that I’m making the biggest and most difficult change in my identity that I’ve ever tried in addition to stressful changes at work and my work duties, the stresses inherent in buying a house (figuring out movers and moving plans, figuring out finances to cover moving costs and immediate improvements like paint etc.), and the general stress of living on a hairline budget for over 8 months, and you’re probably getting a good idea of where I was just a few days ago. I wish I could say that I’m immune to such stresses and that my resilience to be who I know I am makes me naturally resistant to being overwhelmed by emotions, but that wouldn’t be true.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not writing this to elicit pity from my readers, I merely wish to document my experience as best as I can. I am acutely aware that all of the above stresses are the consequences of my own decisions. I knew from the beginning that choosing to transition at the same time that we were planning to buy a house was going to be a difficult situation to navigate, and I believe that I have done pretty well given the circumstances, but even the strongest of us have to break down and take a rest. And that’s what I did. For all intents and purposes the last 3 days were my attempt to gather my strength so that I could march on again. Don’t be mistaken, I certainly felt the overwhelming call of permanent sleep or at the very least the call of a monastic Buddhist life where I give up all attachment (and ego) in favor of the pursuit of eternal peace, but per usual, I resisted those urges.

I think I’ve come to understand that it’s okay to suffer, for all life is subject to one form of suffering or another. We can candy-coat it all we want, we can pretend like positive thought is enough to change our entire lives, we can even rely on our conscious effort to change our vibration to more effectively attract favorable life circumstances (which does work, for a time), but none of that changes the simple truth that suffering is an inherent part to life. The key to true and lasting happiness comes when we accept this truth and cease to push against it. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to feel angry. It’s okay to make mistakes when you are driven by anger. It’s okay to feel unhappy and to be mired with emotional or physical pain, because eventually it will pass away. I believe that is the thing the Buddha understood above all other things, the impermanence of life. Everything is always changing, always flowing towards some future which will eventually become past. On and on the river of time flows in a great circle, an eternally repeating cycle. We are born, we live, we die, and then we do it all over again, on and on forever. The only escape comes when you let go of the attachment of the mind to how things are supposed to be and simply accept them as they are.

When you can accept things as they are without judging them to be good or bad, something inside of you changes. Instead of seeing a world filled with contrasting experiences, you begin to see a larger truth, a truth that is so apparent, so in everyone’s face every single day that they’ve become blind to it. All that is, simply is. Really think about that for a moment. Let that realization wash over you and find the peace inherent in it. Nothing in this world is just good or just bad, all things are a perfect balance of the two (yin and yang). It is our thoughts about it, our beliefs, our judgements, our evaluations that we practice through rampant thought created by a mind stuck in overdrive, that creates so much of our suffering.

Consider this for a moment, how much of your emotional pain has been the result of a thought, judgment, evaluation, or belief that you had? If you honestly answered all of it or most of it, then I believe you are close to the door and almost ready to walk through it. If you answered some of it or none of it, then I’m sorry but you are far from the door and will be unlikely to be ready to walk through it for many lifetimes. What is this door I speak of? It’s the door to enlightenment, to true harmony with beingness, and the wonderful thing about this door, is that you have it inside of you already. It’s there, underneath your mind, simply waiting for you to silence your thoughts enough to hear its call. It’s the call of love. It’s the call of peace. It’s the call of harmony and ease. It’s that still small voice that whispers to you that everything is always working out for everyone and everything. It’s the still small voice that tells you that your suffering comes from the illusion of permanence.

That’s right, I said it, the illusion of permanence. So much of our suffering comes from this illusion; this misguided belief that things will eventually evolve to a point of perfection and stay there forever (once I have that car I’ll be happy. Once I buy that house I’ll be happy. Once I have that relationship I’ll be happy. Once I become ____ I’ll be happy).

This is particularly important for transgender individuals to understand because it will save them a great deal of pain to know that once you transition, you will not achieve permanence. There will never be an end state of perfect happiness waiting for you on the other side of this identity change, because you are ever evolving, constantly growing and becoming. Right now you may be becoming a boy or a girl or something else entirely, but you will never achieve stasis. It doesn’t matter how many procedures you have, how many changes you make, you will never find stasis or permanence, because everything is always changing, and truly that is okay. It’s a good thing! The purpose of your transition should not be to find an end state of permanent happiness, the purpose of transition should to be joyously explore something you’ve always wanted and dreamed of without giving into fear.

I say that it’s a good thing because could you truly imagine being stuck in one place, in one form, in one identity forever? Think of it this way, would you want to be in your current job or life situation FOREVER? If there is anything you don’t like about your life situation right now, imagine how you’d feel about it in, let’s say, 500 years. 500 years of the dish washer that’s so loud it sounds like a plane is landing in your kitchen. 500 years of commuting to the same job to see the same people for the same pay all for the same rewards. Doesn’t that sound awful? I know it does to me. So, why then do we wish to find some permanent state of happiness? You might say, “well, because we’d be happy forever and that doesn’t sound too bad,” but have you honestly ever found anything that made you perfectly happy all the time forever and ever? Anything that didn’t eventually become somewhat boring or tedious or irritating instead of pleasurable or exciting? Hasn’t everything you’ve loved been a combination of both good and bad? Good sometimes, bad other times.

I love donuts and have always loved them. I doubt I will ever stop loving them, but that doesn’t mean they are a permanently good thing. Sometimes, a donut doesn’t sound good or would actually be unpleasant to consume (After a huge thanksgiving dinner for example). Sometimes donuts can cause major health problems if consumed too regularly or in too great a quantity. Because they are bad sometimes, does that mean we should outlaw them? does that mean we should never ever eat one again? Probably not, and that’s the point I’m trying to make. Everything outside of us is inherently dualistic. It is both good and bad, but there is a bigger truth that’s hiding right in plain sight. If everything, and I mean everything, has the potential for both good and bad (even killing, even rape, even war) then doesn’t that mean that everything simply is? If nothing is truly good or truly bad, then doesn’t that mean that they are neither good nor bad? If everything is neither good nor bad, then what is everything? I posit that It simply is. We are the ones who make things good or bad through our judgments, our evaluations, our beliefs.

We may look upon a bird eating a worm and some of us will say it is a bad thing because the worm is losing its life, while others will say it is good because the bird is prolonging its own life, but the bird and the worm would both simply say, it is the way of all things, it simply is. Should we not, then, find ways to embrace and accept everything for what it is?

This, I believe, is the enlightenment that Buddha found all those years ago, sitting under the tree wrestling with his own inner demons. Everything simply is, and everything is always changing. When we resist what currently is through our thoughts, our judgments, our evaluations and our beliefs, we create suffering, both for ourselves and for anyone we interact with. When we accept things as they are without judgments, evaluations, or beliefs, and understand that they are always changing no matter what we do or say, then we end our suffering and achieve that permanent state of happiness we are all looking for. True happiness does not come from the outside in; it is not dependent on external factors, events, places, people, money, or time. True happiness does not come from achieving stasis or permanence in the physical realm, it comes from the permanent acceptance of impermanence and the inherent neutrality of all things. When we accept that everything is always changing and that those changes are neither good nor bad but simply, then the now moment becomes precious because it will never be here again.

 It will never be March 23, 2015 at 9:57am in Minneapolis, Minnesota again, and I will never move my fingers on this keyboard in this exact way again, which means that if I miss this moment because I’m too busy worrying, thinking, judging, evaluating, or resisting external things, then I am missing the very essence of my existence. When you see that the now moment is precious and that inherent neutrality is also inherently beautiful and magnificent (for it allows for any type of experience or growth possible or desirable, hence the multiplicities of galaxies, stars, planets, species and individual life forms), then you’ve found the door; you’ve found enlightenment. It’s not about miracles, it’s not about glowing orbs around your head, it’s about the peace available to you in every moment, even when you suffer. It is possible to be at peace and to suffer at the same time, because when you cease to resist the suffering by judging or evaluating it as “bad” or “wrong” then you permit it to be what it is, knowing that eventually, it will pass, and under those circumstances, your suffering can become beautiful.

-Emma

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