Recently I had a string of days during which I was just cranky. Here’s a sampling of things that were pressing my buttons so you get my gist:
- I’m cranky that people don’t let others out of elevators or off subway cars before pushing their way on
- I’m cranky that people walk 4 across on the sidewalk and don’t make room for two-way traffic
- I’m cranky that the wind in Boston blows my hair into my lipgloss
- I’m cranky that Rufus scratched the wood table I recently refinished, ate the funny Passover card I was going to send to a friend, and consumed and then vomited a sheet of the lint roller paper, which I have to buy in bulk to deal with the volume of white cat hair he leaves in his wake [deep breath]
- I’m cranky that my full time job is taking me away from my “real life”
- That nothing I cook comes out like in the recipe
- That I write plainly and not beautifully like in The Elegance of the Hedgehog
- That after taking a month off from running due to an injury, I can’t run as well as before
- That I’m getting older
- That no one makes a good horror movie anymore
- And that meditation isn’t making me less cranky!
Have you had moments like this? Days? Weeks?
When I was feeling cranky, I wanted nothing more than to feel something else. I wanted to feel serene, composed, and content. But try as I might – and I tried meditating more, running (poorly), calling my Mom, who was also cranky – I could not get myself out of this cranky mood. So I felt bad about feeling bad.
At last, I picked up Pema Chodron’s Start Where You Are. Lately, whenever I read this or another dharma-related book, I find some nugget of wisdom that I need right in that moment. Here is what I found that day:
…Buddha, which means ‘awake,’ is not someone you worship. Buddha is not someone you aspire to; Buddha is not somebody that was born more than two thousand years ago and was smarter than you’ll ever be. Buddha is our inherent nature – our buddha nature – and what that means is that if you’re going to grow up fully, the way that it happens is that you begin to connect with the intelligence that you already have. It’s not like some intelligence that’s going to be transplanted into you. If you’re going to be fully mature, you will no longer be imprisoned in the childhood feeling that you always need to protect yourself or shield yourself because things are too harsh. If you’re going to be a grown-up – which I would define as being completely at home in your world no matter how difficult the situation – it’s because you will allow something that’s already in you to be nurtured. You allow it to grow, you allow it to come out, instead of all the time shielding it and protecting it and keeping it buried.
My take: At any and all times, I cannot get away from my buddha nature. So, at that time, I was cranky buddha!
This teaching didn’t make me feel less cranky. But it did teach me that I didn’t need to feel badly about it or add to my discomfort by trying to change how I felt. And I was again reminded of the importance of taking my seat and focusing on the breath.
So each time I am distracted by cranky (or any other) thoughts, I just begin again.
[Postscript: Since I started writing this post, I have become less cranky. In fact, between then and now I have been wistful buddha, hungry buddha, writing buddha, buddha with lost wallet, buddha in love, and any number of other incarnations of the range of feelings and situations we all experience. None of them last and all of them have been useful.]