The Buddha’s first teaching was about the suffering that is life and the way out of this suffering. The word he used was dukkha. This has been translated into English as suffering, but from what I just read, this is too narrow a translation. Dukkha means unsteady, disquieted, unsatisfied, anxious, frustrated. The term was compared to a potter’s wheel that would shriek when it turned, as opposed to one that turned smoothly. The imagery the Chinese used was that of a broken wheel on a cart. Each time the wheel rolls over the broken spot, the rider is jolted.
This definition and the imagery are really helpful to me. I can see this much more clearly in my day-to-day life. A life lived in a non-aware, unskillful way is like a cart with a busted wheel. Yeah. I’ve been feeling the bumps lately.
And the flip side of that…the life lived in a skillful, awakened way, is one wherein the mind is free from emotional disturbance…one in which behavior is effortlessly appropriate to the situation. There is a flow, a self-forgetfulness, a yielding to “what is”.
This was brought home to me last night. I woke yesterday morning after having a recurring dream. In the dream, it is my first day at work in a big restaurant and they have just dumped me out there on my own, no training, no help. Customers are unhappy, cooks are screaming, other servers are pissed. Whenever I’ve had some version of this dream, I’ve always awakened anxious and heavy. I thought of it as an “anxiety dream”. Yesterday, I decided to sit with the dream. I didn’t try to work out what the dream might mean. Instead, I focused on the feelings that stayed so strong all day. As I sat with the anxiety and heaviness, I slowly became aware that underneath them was a thought.
The thought was “I am worthless“. I realized that the feelings I was having were because of the message in the dream – “You can’t handle life. You have no value. You have no worth”.
I remembered that the day before had been very hard. Several hard phone calls to try to keep electricity and phone. Another hard call to the insurance company, trying to keep insurance. Later, I was trying to fill out a scholarship application. I came to the place where I was to explain to them why I “deserved” this scholarship. I crumpled the paper into a ball in a fit of frustration. Why? I suddenly realized that I didn’t think I “deserved” it at all!
The dream was given to point out my faulty thinking. I’ve never realized it’s message before, but it is clear to me now. Now I have the opportunity to “weed my garden”, to give attention to what is faulty and replace it with a clearer perception. Of course I have value! Of course I have worth! To have an incorrect perception of oneself is crippling. I am learning (slowly, slowly) to show myself the same compassion and grace I would extend to others.