I have had the good fortune in my life, and sometimes the misfortune, of traveling all over the U.S. I’ve witnessed breathtaking sunsets, experienced daylight until the wee hours of the morning, and gazed for hundreds of miles in all directions while sitting on a mountaintop. I’ve also had everything stolen out of my car, been yelled at because I’m from California, and experienced behavior that only comes from a closed mind. I’ve seen the best that nature has to offer and the worst of man’s destruction to nature. I’ve been witness to the best of humanity and the worst of humanity.
I’d like to think that people are the same wherever you go, that in every corner of the country, there are more people that act in kindness and compassion than in cruelty and indifference. I have come to question this, as I’ve noticed that anger and hate, or at least the display of it, tend to be more abundant in certain regions, but that may be for another article as I process this. When I’m in the presence of such behavior, I find myself reverting to reaction, as I did recently, instead of responding in a mindful way as my meditation practice has taught me. And this can lead me down a big rabbit hole of self-doubt and a visit with my old friend, guilt.
So, I am reminded of my humanness. I will admit that I tend to analyze the hell out of my reactions, going over and over what I should have done differently, how I could have responded, and all this keeps me in the rabbit hole. Usually sitting with the emotions, practicing meditation, pops me right out of the hole, but this was a particularly emotional time, with a powerful mix of guilt, frustration, anger and sadness, and I was in too deep.
I was feeling the emotions on a intensely physical level, and so it was natural that I dispel them physically. Because I know that throwing things never helps, I took a walk. I happen to be right by a cemetery, and that’s the place I chose to walk. I knew it would be a quiet, peaceful place in nature, with few if any people around, and would provide me with a sense of calm and solitude, just what I needed to quiet my mind. As I roamed around the grave markers, I was reminded that life is short, that my time here is brief, and that I don’t want to spend that time being angry.
The great Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, once said, “Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything—anger, anxiety, or possessions—we cannot be free.” I think the key word here is “cling.” Am I going to get angry, feel emotions, react? Of course I am because that’s what us humans do, but releasing that attachment to these emotions is the only way to freedom. And because you’re human, you will feel all the feels too. Let them go through mindfulness practices or through moving your body. Meditate, dance, walk, run, hit a punching bag, shoot a few hoops or otherwise get physical in a healthy way. And don’t forget to give yourself a little grace, dear human.