At the end of my previous post, I said I'd write about opening the doorway to joy. The idea that we can find joy in lives that are restricted by illness, pain, grief, unemployment, a broken heart, poor mental health, or addiction can seem ridiculous. Essentially, though, finding joy in life is at the heart of religion and most of the self-help books you can find these days. We're all on that search and have been since we became conscious beings. I find different titles and ways to say it, but finding joy is really the underlying topic of all the posts on this blog.
For now I'm focusing in Buddhism's Eightfold Path, and how walking that path can help set our spirits free to experience joy even as we live life's pain.
The second step on the Eightfold Path is called Right Intention, and is composed of three intentions:
1. The intention of renunciation, which means that we intend to resist the pull of desire;
2. The intention of good will, which means that we intend to resist our feelings of anger and aversion;
3. The intention of harmlessness, which means that we intend not to think or act cruelly, violently or aggressively, and to develop compassion.
I like the way the first intention -- renunciation -- follows logically from the first step on the Eightfold Path, The Four Noble Truths. The Truths are all about understanding how our attachment to desire causes us suffering. Notice the Buddhists are careful to say, the attachment to desire. It's not desire itself that is the problem. Desire for food and water makes us survive. Desire for sex ensures the human species goes on generation after generation. Desires to become a better person or more learned or more comfortable have ensured all of the change and growth since we lived in caves. I write this blog because I desire to find joyful freedom within a life greatly restricted by chronic migraine pain. These desires are essential to who we are.
This second step not only reinforces what we've learned from the Truths, it drives home the lesson by using the verb intend. For renunciation, it's not I will resist the pull of desire, but I intend to resist the pull of desire. Built right into the phrase is an acknowledgement of how even our noble desires are subject to attachment. We can become attached to desiring to resist the pull of desire, causing our own suffering by castigating ourselves or getting depressed when we don't resist.
Saying we intend to resist desire's attraction signals to and reminds us of the danger of attaching to the desire to detach from desire. We humans make life pretty complicated.
ACCEPT THE DESIRE
When you're in chronic pain, you want it to stop. When you're unemployed, you want a job. If a loved one has died, you want them back or want to have not said, or said, or not done, or done something. If you're growing older, you wish you had the strength and energy and looks of the younger you. If you're disabled, you wish for your full capabilities.
You're human. It's natural. Accept that you have desires. Let them be what they are, sit with them. (Meditation and prayer are, I think, essential to this kind of acceptance. You can click on an item in the Labels column to the right of this post if you'd like to read more on the subject.)
INTEND TO RESIST ITS PULL
I intend to stop complaining so much about having to stay on the bed in a
dark room so often. When I realize I've been complaining, I simply remind
myself of my intention, which is a lot more positive and much better for
my self-esteem than wondering why I'm such a narcissistic whiner.
Basically, I wrote this post to remind myself of my intention.
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Carol D. Marsh
- With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90 days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.