Dukkha

In the Zen tradition, dukkha is often translated as “suffering,” although more often it means dissatisfaction or the nagging sense that something is off, or sometimes even existential angst. It seems that dukkha is discussed more explicitly in American Zen than it commonly has been elsewhere in the Zen world.~~Konin Cardenas, “Understanding Dukkha,” Lion’s Roar 2017

That got me thinking…

Dog sitting is my part time job. While walking Paco, the Min-Pin-Chihuahua mix, in  the sauna-like humidity of Florida summer,  I was experiencing dukkha, because my bum hip hurt and I was uncomfortable. I was also feeling guilt about my cat, Gus, home alone even though I went back daily for a few hours with him. Then there were the nagging questions common to dog sitters: what did I need from home that I forgot and what did I leave at the other condo that I need at home.

I happened upon an acquaintance, a resident of the building where I was staying. “How are you doing these days,” I asked. She answered “Going to Maine soon. I just bought a condo in Portland.” And I felt the hammer of dukkha come down hard on my mind. Envy. Dissatisfaction. 

As everyone knows, Buddha said life is full of suffering. What people misinterpret is what he meant by suffering. in addition to suffering death, disease and old age, there is the suffering brought on by our desires. This suffering is called Dukkha and is less about actual suffering, but more about unease, a sense one doesn’t have all they need. It’s about being attached to certain outcomes, desires and being disappointed when they don’t come to fruition. It’s also about the niggling little irritations, the small pains, the irritations of bad traffic or bad weather, aversion to inconvenience and craving for pleasure. And change. Most people will avoid change like the plague. We wait until our ass is on fire before we finally change what the problem may be. Dukkha can be defined as difficulties.

Some of my friends are on vacation in cool, beautiful places. Some even have lovely second homes in those places. They have financial well-being. I have Dukkha.

I’m not proud of it. I’m not homeless, I just have a lower income than my better-off friends. I don’t have much to complain about. 

Like so many others in the United States, I suffer from dissatisfaction. It arises out of a belief that I should be happy. That something is wrong with my life if I am not happy. This is the burden we inherit from the myth of the American Dream. We suffer from having too much and not enough. We even have the house, the car, the income we are told will make us happy, and yet…

So…because I am a writer, I write to face and understand things. I have ample opportunities to practice lessening the impact of dukkha on my life because I am an American. What helps other than writing? Seeing through the myth of the need for constant happiness. 

Try the attitude of accepting difficulty instead of getting aggravated by it. It’s a lot more peaceful.~~Rick Hanson, Phd. from “Just One Thing”

What kind of courage do we need? We must accept reality in all its immensity…the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to meet the strangest, most awesome and most inexplicable of phenomena.~~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

The Courage We Need is

to stand alone
on the dance floor.

The courage we need is
to stay steady

as we feel the foundation cracking

to see clearly
through lies
thick as heavy blankets
as the sleepers
pretend wakefulness.

The courage we need is
to refuse
the safety
of the trance.

The courage we need is
to love with a broken heart,
shed fears like leaves,
bend, bow
and continue.

https://www.paypal.com/biz/fund?id=QTNFPBXT5AGDE

Dogs Are Almost Perfect, But…

kunzang_profile

Dogs, like people, can be difficult to love sometimes. Every dog family has its dysfunction. It’s not nearly as bad as it can be in families that are all human, but, it can still be a trial.

I love all the dogs I dog-sit, but they are not without their quirks. One has a bark that, inside, is painful to the ears and I worry a little about damage to my hearing. There are too many FedEx trucks in the world! And why don’t mail delivery people just toss the mail from their vehicles as they pass the house. Why in the world do they need to storm the house like invading armies, the dog wonders.

All of them tend to scratch my arms because it seems I do not notice that it is time for someone to get an ear scratch. My skin is thin and  the blood blisters on my arms are not so attractive!  Usually a long sleeve sweater helps, but not always.

Another dog has terrible separation anxiety, maybe because his parents travel a lot and leave him or maybe he was born with that trait. Either way it can be heartbreaking to leave him even to go to the store for a little while. The panic in his eyes is painful to see. It’s worse when he freaks out and jumps like a whirling dervish—he is a big, strong boy and his nails on my back hurt.

Sometimes I can’t tell what my pups want. This must be what it is like with an infant who cries no matter how the parent tries to soothe them.

I take out the leash and say “Out?” He lies down and looks at me. Okay, not out. “

“Chew thing?” Another blank look; it’s not that he doesn’t like chew things, he seems to be saying, but not this chew thing. He looks at me like I should know this by now. And actually I do, so why do I keep trying with that chew thing. Some of us never learn.

“Cookie?” That always get a positive reaction and all is right with the world. For about an hour. Then it’s time for ball tossing. This guy is very smart and has me trained. He looks up at the drawer in the bureau where the balls are kept and gives a slight bark. I get the ball. He is a talented ball player. I especially admire how when I throw the ball and he hits it back to me with his nose.

So I am trained by my dogs to be patient, to pay attention, to go out, to sit, and that’s just the truth!