Wednesday, 4 November 2015

No Space For Blame

The problem with our lives is that we become too comfortable in our own skin. Our feet ground us to the floor from the moment we begin to walk. Our steps feel secure and purposeful, they take us in the direction we want them to go in. Life generally stays like that for quite sometime until some disaster strikes. Our body might physically fail us, causing disease or impairment, or we might encounter some emotional suffering, the loss of a partner or child for example. It doesn't really matter what the loss is, it is just the fact that it is something that sweeps us off our feet. When we try to get back up and walk again, the landscape that we once knew has changed. Our feet don't seem to grip the floor beneath us as well as they did. We try to dig our toes in, yet still we cannot feel the earth as before. In our search for security and happiness we look for answers to our suffering and this is when the problem arises of placing the blame on ourselves or others for what has happened to us. 
Sometimes I feel as though I am in somebody else's body it doesn't feel like mine anymore. Pregnancy changes your feet, my old shoes don't feel the same post-pregnancy, my feet are much wider having carried the burden of twins. New shoes are better, new shoes aren't moulded to the body of the person I once was. I look at myself in the mirror and while my appearance is familiar I see that the emotional strain of the last few years has taken its toll on my smile. When I look in a full length mirror there is the unmissable C-section scar, an emergency cut through my flesh carried out without any regard for what I would look like once all sewn back up. When friends have shown me their scars, they have been neatly cut and sewn back up again. I have scar envy, my is not neat, it is a harsh reminder of the fear and danger that surrounded the need to cut me open. It is a reminder of the damage to my sons brain as he was trapped in my pelvis. Too much time was taken by the doctors in an attempt to push him out. I look at my scar and feel the guilt, 'What if we had got him out sooner?'. I spent the first two years of my son's life dishing out the blame. I blamed myself, I blamed the doctor, I blamed just about everyone one and everything, and blame turned to anger. This is not a healthy situation to be in and a 'self' that I do not like. The feeling of not having the ground beneath my feet in the same way as it was before has brought with it a lot of fear and anxiety that I am trying to overcome the best way that I can. I have begun to understand that things are no longer black and white or right and wrong, they are just what they are.
My son and daughter were both born in to this world with disabilities, this is neither right nor wrong, it is just life. If I sit for a second with the feeling that it is wrong then that is when bitterness and anger rise, that is the moment when I make the rest of the world my enemy, and I am not going to do that. If we live with the idea that something is either right or wrong then that is simply a way to trick the mind in to believing that this suffering is just a one off, and the rest of our lives will be comfortable, safe, and secure when of course it is not. The sense of security in our health, love, work etc is a delusion. The ground beneath our feet is never secure, our bodies don't last forever, lovers leave, jobs finish. Accept that change is part of life and very quickly the world becomes a more peaceful place. 
We have to be willing to be compassionate to ourselves, to understand that we are only an ordinary human being. We must accept ourselves 'Just As We Are' even the parts of ourselves we don't like. How do we get to this state?  For me it's a combination of things, writing and reflecting on what I have been through, meditation and my chanting practice as a Pureland Buddhist. Calling out to Amida Buddha brings to the forefront of my mind the fact that I am just an ordinary being and that Amida accepts me just as I am. 
The chanting or 'Nembutsu' helps to bring a greater awareness of my fragility, I am more emotionally and spiritually awake with nembutsu than at any other time. The process softens the heart, and allows me to sit with what I am feeling without being full of anxiety or fear of the parts of me that I am not comfortable with. Connecting with Amida through Nembutsu, lets me know its all okay. 
Through my practice my mind set has slowly begun to change. The child in me that used to always see things as right or wrong is beginning to understand that life is made up of so much more. I no longer have to take the blame when there is none to take. I can choose to walk a different path. I choose the Middle Way. 
Bad things happen in life, I could not protect my son in the time around his birth, and to take the blame for that would not be healthy for him or me, yet there were times early on when I felt like I had failed him. My stupid body had failed him. Thousands of women give birth everyday, with no problems, I don't know anyone like me. But the truth is that today like every other day there will be one woman who is going through what I went through, I feel that, and I am filled with compassion for myself and every other woman who will go through the same emotional and physical trauma that I went through. 
Parents of disabled children often feel a sense of guilt and blame even if they are not consciously aware of it. The result of taking the blame is that you then spend all your energy trying to some how put it right. The reality is however that this only leads to a constant craving and hunger for something that doesn't exist - a more 'normal' life. By walking the Middle Way, I choose not to be right and not to be wrong, blame will not suffocate me, in the same way that it did before.
The middle way means not holding on to any version of yourself so tightly that you can't keep your heart open to the possibility of something else. Being grounded and secure in yourself doesn't come from being either right or wrong. It comes from feeling comfortable sitting in the space between those directions, with our hearts open. It is only in this open space that we can begin to communicate sincerely with both ourselves and others. Follow the Middle Way and be Just As You Are. 

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