Curiousquery wrote: In a river of emotional distress, where do you find still water?
Buddhism has a great many meditative techniques that can help you find peace. There are many different teachers, writers, words, and practices to choose from, and so the best advice is to explore Buddhist writings and see what particularly resonates with you, (as some will personally resonate with you better than others). What resonates best with you will help you heal fastest.
A basic principle of Buddhism is meditation.
Meditation is the cultivation of clarity through stillness....
Just as in nature...
If you scoop up a bucketful of water from the bottom of the river...
You see the water? It is almost completely opaque! It's all full of dark swirling mud!
But let it stand in stillness for just a bit and observe carefully....
the rocks drop to the bottom
the mud drops to the bottom
and the muddy water becomes amazingly clear.
Our thoughts, our emotions, our restlessness, our addictions, our life histories...
You, me, all of us.....
we can still close our eyes.... and hear a lifetime of screaming and the crying within us
we can still close our eyes..... and still see and feel the violence
we can still close our eyes and re-live it all, all the trauma of our lives
all the trauma of our wars...
it is all we have known and all we have ever known...
and It is all so much dark muddy water from the bottom of the river
of darkness, suffering, confusion, pain
And so you see the basic principle of meditation...
the cultivation of the stillness that brings peace and clarity.
Your life, my life, all of us.... we are each a glass full of opaque muddy swirling water
and so we sit and meditate and cultivate the stillness...
and bit by bit the heavy mud of our lives begins to drop out of the muddy waters of our lives
and settles gracefully to the bottom
and slowly we become clear and clean and the light goes through us.
Just as in nature.
What does clarity look like?
I have a small true story for you:
He had heavy hands that had knocked holes in walls....when people had managed to duck.
People had not often managed to duck.
His high school principal hadn't managed to duck.
Fellow soldiers and civilians hadn't managed to duck.
Friends, enemies, and business associates hadn't managed to duck.
His wife and kids hadn't managed to duck.
They said that he had run the black market in the army. WWII. He was always making deals, some good, some sour.
30 years later he had still kept the military crew cut hair style, occasionally running his heavy hands over it like the bristles of a brush.
It never flattened. He would smile approvingly and say: "See that? Pure meanness keeps the hair standing perfectly straight upright. Pure meanness."
By the time I met him, he was tired and worn, with scars of a lifetime of fighting, arthritic hands, and a cough that sounded under water. He had an inheritance he had blown on gambling. He had a beautiful wife he had endlessly cheated on with other women. He had children he'd ignored. He said one of them had landed some serious heartfelt punches on him the day the kid moved out and enlisted. That had impressed him.
He had quit the booze and the cigarettes some years before I met him, but they had taken a heavy toll. His doctor had wrenched him into a headlock and threatened to drop him out a 10th floor window of the hospital when he'd tried to light a cigarette next to an oxygen tank. The doctor had told him that his #$%& life wasn't worth saving.
That had impressed him.
He said I was the strangest thing he'd ever seen.
Hadn't I ever heard of baby carriages and strollers? What was with this "wearing a baby around like an Indian routine"? What was wrong with me?!
I laughed: hadn't he ever seen the koala bears at the zoo? Surely he had seen the koala bears at the zoo...
The fact that I had calmly countered him had somehow impressed him.
And so we talked.
He was a good talker. Talking was his therapy. It passed the time without cigarettes and booze. He'd gotten more honest with himself and others since the cigarettes and the booze were gone. Being dragged into the hospital kicking and screaming had helped. A doctor threatening to throw him out a 10 story window and write him up as a suicide had helped. The therapy had helped.
He was a good talker.
The biggest thing they'd ever stolen in the war was a train, you know....(a train? How on earth does anybody steal a train?)
He said it was for a good cause. One of the better things he'd done in life. One of the few things he was proud of.
There was a lot he wasn't proud of. He didn't pull any punches in life.
He didn't pull any punches on himself either.
As I listened to him it reminded me of the lyrics of the Pete Townshend song "Behind Blue Eyes
":No one knows what it's like
To be the bad man
To be the sad man
Behind blue eyes
And no one knows what it's like
To be hated
To be fated
To telling only lies...
...No one knows what it's like
To feel these feelings
Like I do
And I blame you
No one bites back as hard
On their anger
None of my pain woe
Can show through
But my dreams they aren't as empty
As my conscious seems to be
I have hours, only lonely
My love is vengeance
That's never free...
Those words seemed to summarize the man well.
I took the baby off and sat down next to him with the baby in my lap.
He was amazed...
How could a human being ever be that little and vulnerable.... and happy?
How could a human being ever be that cared for and loved?
He had thought it bizarre to see me wearing a baby around like a koala bear and had said that he had never held a baby in his life.
I asked him how it was possible that he had 3 kids in life... and yet had never held a baby.
He said that he had always been too big, too clumsy, to awkward...
too dangerous, too mean, too angry.... to ever hold a baby.
"Well, you're going to hold this one..."
Terror crossed his face: "No, no.... my hands are too big, too clumsy... I could drop her, I could hurt her..."
"You're not going to hurt anybody."
I held my baby with one arm and grabbed his arm with the other, placing it securely under the baby as I slid the baby across from my lap to his and wrapping my arm securely around his own. I then did the same with his other arm, such that the baby was in his arms in his lap and my arms were securely around his own.
She smiled up at him and he looked down on her with awe...how could a human being ever be so little?
I held his arms in mine as he held the baby:"You were once this little, you know.
This was you once, in your mother's arms, on your mother's lap.
You were this amazing wondrous little creature and you came here and gave her the opportunity to learn how to love, how to care.
She didn't know how to love you. She didn't know how to love anyone. She didn't even know how to love and care for herself. She had been too broken in life."
His mother had been an addict, a violent alcoholic who used to hurl anything she could get her hands on across a room and smash it to bits. She had died leaving behind her the odd scattered remains of countless sets of dishes that she had hurled across rooms and shattered into shards.
"It wasn't your fault she didn't know how to hold you and care for you and love you
she'd been too broken in life...
and this was you once."
He shook all over and tears welled up in his eyes.
He had lived all his life with that wound and hanging on to that horrendous attachment, that anger...
and for the first time in his life he began to let some of it go.
We sat there in silence for a long time.