I really love Susan Piver. She is a Buddhist meditation teacher and writer whom I discovered about a year ago. What I love about her writing is how honest and free of bullshit it is. In a recent blog, she was talking about meditation and how it often brings up a lot of strong emotions. She described this as “a simple return to who you really are – tender, vulnerable beings who feel things deeply.” This is the ultimate no-bullshit description of the goodness of human nature.
She went on to say that this is because:
“in truth, we are deeply unshielded. We spend much of our time constructing shields—out of ideas, money, lifestyle, you name it. When we sit to practice, all of this falls away. What is left is a giant beating heart that is so beautiful and raw. While it can feel sad, it is also quite joyful and real.”
Amen to that. There have only been a few times in my life when I’ve actually stopped to look around and assess what is bullshit and what is really important.
It’s kind of second nature to put your head down and burrow through whatever it is you’ve decided are the things you “have” to do. You have to go to work, or school, you have to get a degree or get married; these are the big ones that inspire little off-shoots of “shoulds” that dictate the course of your path. As I’m writing this, I’m picturing a mole, blind and caked with dirt, chug-chug-chugging along as he burrows his hole through a dark mess of chaos.
I think it’s important to be able to burrow ahead, because stopping to constantly assess the quality of dirt you’re burrowing through won’t get the hole dug. However, the process of digging this hole and chugging ahead is actually really terrifying. That’s where the shields come in. Because if you’re more focused on how much money you’re making or how hot your boyfriend is or how cool your facebook photo albums look to a casual observer, you don’t have to think about the fact that you’re buried in the dirt.
Okay, so we all need shields and diversions and other things to think about besides the fact that life is, by nature, confusing and unpredictable. But it gets confusing to suss out what’s real and what’s important, and what’s just a shield someone has constructed to make themselves feel better, in other words, what’s bullshit. Or, perhaps a better metaphor is a rock.
If you’ve ever gardened or dug around in the dirt at all you know that hitting a rock is literally a jarring experience. It’s similar when someone comes along and tells you “this is important.” But there are so many rocks! Here’s a few I have encountered recently
1) Being skinny
2) Having an IRA
3) Having a career
4) Being healthy
5) Taking chances
6) Doing what you love and making a life out of it
You might have noticed that items 1, 2, and 3 could be interpreted as being directly in conflict with items 4, 5, and 6, respectively. So how do you choose which rocks to toss aside and which ones to dig around?