It’s the end of the school year, all my kids have been sick, I’ve been sick, there are plays, concerts, recitals, birthday parties every other day and I’ve been hearing myself say, “We just need to get through this…”
At this I stop myself in my tracks and hear little alarm bells go off. I know this music. It means I’m getting into a postponement of life mindset. I am rejecting what I am experiencing right now for some ethereal imagined experience in the future. Whole years can get lost to this mentality.
I remember when I first heard the definition of suffering, that suffering is not something that is done to you but is rather the rejection of what you’re experiencing. This is different from pain, which can be described as an intense body sensation. You can experience pain without suffering if you are simply observing the sensations without rejection (no easy task by the way).
But this internal postponement of joy I find myself falling back into from time to time is a type of suffering. Another phrase that comes to mind is, “when “X” happens, then I’ll be happy.” Once again, the check is always in the mail. When I graduate, when I get a house, when I get a partner, when I have a baby, when Covid is over, when I’m done with this project, then I can really live.”
Whenever I hear anything like that in my stream of thoughts, I immediately stop and ask myself instead, “What about what you’re experiencing right now?” Every experience has its texture, its information, its value. These little checks help me to re-center myself when I start losing sight of the present.
As I mentioned at the start, I was sick earlier this month, and I tried this exercise while lying in bed. I found I was able to derive some enjoyment from that feverish feeling, there was something to that hazy mental state, I curled up in a blanket and observed the sensations of my body fighting off whatever playground virus my kids had brought home this time.
Of course, there are those days when it all gets the better of me, but the more I’ve reoriented myself to my current experience, the easier it’s been to shake off the “just put my head down and get through this” mindset and derive appreciation for whatever is happening right now, even if it's the fifth kids' birthday party we've been to this month.