In this month’s (Buddhist magazine) “Lion’s Roar,” Jack Kornfield writes, “Even under the direst conditions, freedom of spirit is available… We are free and able to love in this life—no matter what. Deep down we know this is true. We know it whenever we feel a part of something greater—listening to music,…walking in the mountains…sitting at the mystery of a dying loved one as her spirit leaves her body silently as a falling star, or witnessing the birth of a child…This freedom is here for you as well. You can begin personally with freedom of spirit, freedom to start over, freedom beyond fear, and freedom to be yourself, and then discover freedom to love, freedom to stand up for what matters, and freedom to be happy.”
Kornfield talks about how this freedom is right here, now, in this moment. It’s in this moment as I sit here typing these words listening to the rain outside at 5:45 on a Thursday morning. It’s in this moment that you’re reading these words.
I’d just gotten to the end of Man’s Search for Meaning, in which Victor Frankl writes about how the real purpose, the deeper meaning for what motivates us humans, is what he calls the “will to meaning.” Frankl argues that this search for meaning and a purpose in life is what drives people, not instincts. People will live and die for a cause. We will suffer for it. For example, in the concentration camp one of the prisoners had done something punishable according to the SS, so they decided that they would punish the entire group by starving them for the day unless one of them wanted to give the guy up, turn him in. They all chose hunger.
Frankl writes about how looking towards the future is what kept them going, with the knowledge that the war would be over at some point, and they’d see their loved ones again, and they needed to get through this for their families. What they weren’t prepared for is that some of them had no families left after it was all over, and those people became depressed. I haven’t finished the book yet, but I believe Frankl’s wife died, and he may not have had family when he got out… so he must’ve found a will to live somehow. Well, he wrote this book, for one. He had a story to tell, a story that’s reached far beyond where one might imagine, to me, in 2017, an American woman who wasn’t born until well after that particular war was over.
So there are two seemingly opposing views: Kornfield’s in which he contends that joy can be found here in this moment no matter the circumstances, and Frankl’s in which he talks about “suffering proudly,” not miserably, and looking towards the future. The “suffering proudly” confused me a bit and I want to write about that more in a future post. To be continued.
Frankl writes about finding joy–or maybe gratitude is a more suitable word–in the present moments in camp, such as when a guard offered an extra piece of bread to a prisoner, or prisoners put on plays for each other, or some moment when someone showed compassion for someone else, no matter whether the person was a guard or a prisoner.
I told my therapist yesterday that I have trouble lately finding joy in the moment because all I can think about is getting my own place, a better-paying job as a nutritionist, in which I skip all the hard parts and am already an expert, and when my free time will be truly free. She reminded me that getting my own place and a better job are goals, and it’s okay to have goals. It’s good to have goals. So I think this is what Frankl’s talking about, in part. And I don’t think Kornfield is saying not to have goals, but just that I can enjoy this time now.
In one of the articles I can’t find now in “Lion’s Roar,” someone writes about letting go. Acceptance. And allowing joy to pour in. it’s not about being exuberantly happy all the time, but about finding gratitude for what’s here, even if that something is painful.
I’m having a hard time articulating my words because I have a limited time, and so much to say, but what I’m getting at is that I spend a lot of time worrying about shit that doesn’t matter, and maybe it’s time to let go of that stuff. It’s beyond time. I asked my therapist how to do this, and she said, just focus on what you need to do right now. Simple. I already knew that. Sometimes I need to be reminded. I love her because she reminds me that I’m okay. I’m doing the bare minimum I need to get by, I tell her, of school, and she says that’s okay, that’s what most of us do. I can’t remember a damn thing, I tell her, and she says, that’s okay, when it comes up again you can look it up, that’s how we learn.
There’s more but I don’t have time to write about it, so I’ll sum it up as best I can. Just that I may be in the process of learning to have a relationship with someone while doing my own thing for a change. Today I’m not worried about what he’s doing or not doing, thinking or not thinking, feeling or not feeling, what our future or non-future will look like. In the grand scheme of things, do I really care about all that?
Honestly, no. I want to be happy now.
What is it I really want? I want to practice self-love, to find strength in myself, to have the courage to be on my own. And if a man fits into that, great. If not, I’ll be okay. And it’s not about eff them all and I don’t care and I didn’t want you anyway. It’s about finding love and peace and compassion and understanding even when things don’t go my way. But it’s not about being a doormat either. We still have so many opportunities to grow and love and be happy. And I can be happy now. And I am.
Everything I want is within me. I just need to access it. And I am doing that. Right now.
And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
You can do this too. Because if I can do it, anybody can. Read some of my old posts from the beginning of this blog if you don’t believe me.
Peace and love,
PS: Here’s a fun song I just discovered: