Being kind isn’t all that hard. Being jolly and upbeat all the time is – and is a denial of our emotions and bodily responses to certain situations.
I woke up yesterday in a bad mood – which has spilled over into today. The reasons for it are numerous: tiredness, frustration, a lack of compassion in the world amongst others. The Zen thing to do would be to be present in the moment, for in this moment there is all that we need. There is nothing but this moment. Feelings of despair arise when we separate ourselves from the moment, and think about the past or the future, dwelling on certain aspects and perhaps not seeing the bigger picture (or perhaps even seeing the bigger picture, which can cause us to despair even more).
Yes – I am quite comfortable in this present moment as I write this. I am not being shot at. I am not in fear for my life. My loved ones are safe. I have a cup of tea, and enough food to eat. My body is clean, my clothes warm. Compared to many, what on earth am I doing feeling despondent?
Humanity’s blessing, and curse, is the ability to see the bigger picture. This can lead to glorious ideas about the direction we should take; it can also lead to despair when we take into consideration the negative aspects of our lives on this planet. Focusing on just the positive isn’t balanced – neither is focusing on the negative. As a Druid, I am constantly seeking balance and harmony, to find my place in the world and to serve this world in the best capacity that I can, being true to my nature and honourable in my deeds.
I sometimes fail at this. I sometimes succeed. In this, there is balance. Of course, I aim to look at things from a balanced perspective, but on the whole we are conditioned throughout our lives to try and look at things positively. However, when looking at things negatively, we need to remember that negative does not equal apathy. If there is something we do not like, we can seek a way to change it. It’s in our hands.
This is not denying the negative. It is living a life with intention. Creating peace is damned hard work. It requires a person to see all sides of a story and work with the ideals of compassion and empathy. If we only acknowledged the positive things in our lives, our compassion and empathy would be seriously diminished.
I sometimes find myself thinking that Buddhist monks have got it pretty easy, secluded away in their monasteries, not engaging with the real world. Some do. However, I remind myself that other monks have engaged with the world in ways that I probably will never be able to – think Thich Nhat Hanh helping to rebuild villages during the Vietnam War, not taking sides with anyone and simply helping people as best he could. I’m sure at some points he too despaired, seeing children dying, homes destroyed and his country torn apart. My despair pales in comparison to this.
This is not to say that I should not acknowledge my own despair, however. If I did, if I pushed it to one side to focus on the positive, I’m sure that it would return to bite me on the ass at the most inopportune moment. We don’t have to give in to feelings of despair, but neither should we push them aside. We normally don’t push feelings of joy aside – we like to experience these. All feelings should be felt – and then we can move on.
So, tired after dance rehearsals and depressed by the amount of litter that I see along the roadsides that I will have to clear (again), apprehensive about coming engagements and a workload that was supposed to be lighter this year being heavier than ever, I am feeling my despair, my depression. I am allowing it to move through me, so that I can come out the other side having had the experience, which will hopefully transform into some sort of wisdom.
This despair will be self-contained – I will not be taking it out on others. I will try not to snap at people even though my emotions and reactions feel more “on edge” than normal. You can despair at the world and still be kind. You can reach out a hand to friends or family if you need to. You can write about it in a blog.
Above all, you are allowed to feel it, in your bones and in your soul.