Yesterday morning was month to the day since I woke up. I woke up from a twelve hour surgery and an additional twelve hours of being under sedation. I woke up to my reality; I was alive and had a new liver, a new life ahead of me.
For the past month I have been in a state of joy and wonder; mesmerized by the miracle of modern medicine, and blissfully filled with Love from of all of You, Holy Beings who have been supporting me by offering up your Love and energy. I have felt such a vibrant part of the universal Love collective, the One supreme divine source that exists in us all, and of which we all contribute.
Only yesterday morning, I woke up feeling more pain than usual. Pain in my arms, and pain in the gut where my wound is actively healing and where the drain’s tail is deep within my abdominal cavity removing the fluid that has been prolonging my stay in hospital. My pain turned to sadness as I contemplated the day ahead, more jabs and pills, more arm trauma as the phlebotomy team continue to miss my tiny veins that are rebelling against the blood letting. And my son, oh how I miss him.
I am so close to going home, I can almost touch it if I expand toward the days ahead. Only, in the present moment, I’m not yet ready. They are monitoring so many body functions carefully and so many things are too high or too low given the day. My body is still adapting, something done better in, than out of hospital directly after an organ transplant. So, my practice in patience continues yet gets a bit ruffled from time to time, and I have to remind myself of everything that has happened in the past month, and scan through all the very Big positive achievements. This stops the tears, but not always the feeling of sadness, of isolation.
At the moment the tears stopped I got an email from a friend of my mother’s who included a quote from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. What beautiful timing. I needed the reminder that happiness and sadness are interconnected and inseparable from one another. Without the sadness, the happiness and daily tears of joy and absolute gratitude and pure Love I’ve been feeling day after day would not be possible.
Sadness, or suffering, is dukkha in Sanskrit; the opposite of sukha; ease, joy, happiness. Looking at Sanskrti word roots can be interesting, first, because many of our anglo-saxon words bear a relationship on their Sanskrit counterpart, and further, the more we break words down, the more clear the depth of their meaning becomes, and the more exacting we can be taking account of saying what we mean and meaning what we say. Knowledge brings us closer to the truth.
The SanskritÂ SukhaÂ is a somewhat common term in the Yoga Sutras, appearing in five separate verses including the first verse on asana or physical posture.Â Usually defined as happiness, pleasure, ease, joy or agreeableness, the Sanskrit rootÂ SuÂ = â€œgood, fineâ€.Â Â KhaÂ = â€œstateâ€.Â So a more literal translation ofÂ sukhaÂ might be â€œGood Stateâ€.Â ButÂ khaÂ can also mean space, so su-kha can signify â€œhappy spaceâ€ or â€œgood spaceâ€.Â Yesterday morning I wasn’t feeling in a “good state’, but I also didn’t feel I was suffering. I felt something else, I felt…sad. Interestingly, in Sanskrit, the root sad can be traced back to a simpler “sa”; one source suggests in Old Irish, saith, as in satified or sated; in Sanskrit, sa meaning ‘insatiable’. Sanskrit’s definition delves deeper when we look to the relationship of the root sa as it relates to the famous texts of the Upanishads and and to the root sat, meaning truth. The native philosophers linked sad to the sense of destruction that comes from dismantling ignorance as divine relelation sets in; and the idea of approaching, as a student approaches the seat of the teacher to be closer to Brahman, or God. Ultimately, sad is a root word of shad in the Upanishads. These ancient texts were meant to destroy ignorance and attachment; it is said that they were first delivered by students sitting around in a circle close to the teacher in search of the truth.
This reminds me of seeing a therapist when I was in my angst-filled teenage years. I showed many signs of depression, was inclined to listen to music such as the Smiths, Pink Floyd, and Peter Gabriel; I wrote about the suffering in the world, on many days seeing the glass as half empty rather than half full.
My parents were worried, and ultimately the found someone I could ‘talk’ to. The therapist explained sadness in a way that to me that I won’t forget. She said sometimes when we feel sad we are seeing a part of the truth that society tries to mask. There is suffering in the world, and when we see this, it is natural that we also feel sad or depressed. The challenge is to see the suffering as rain is to sunlight. Without the rain, the sun burns the grasses and depletes us of nutrients. We need the rain also to rehydrate us, to balance the extremes of black and white. This made a lot of sense to me as a teenager, and it still resonates on the days I wake up and the sun is hidden.
In the Buddhist tradition the awakening of Bodhichitta is the most precious state imaginable. A bodhisattva is an enlightened being; someone who is able to sustain Bodhichitta throughout his or her daily life, day after day. If we are practitioners, we are bodhisattvas-in-training.
How do we develop our Bodhichitta? The tradition tells us that the most direct route is through fully experiencing suffering, our suffering and the suffering of others. Thich Nhat Hanh explains:
It’s like growing lotus flowers. You cannot grow lotus flowers on marble. You have to grow them in mud. Without mud, you cannot have a lotus flower. Without suffering, you have no ways in order to learn how to be understanding and compassionate. That’s why my definition of the kingdom of God is not a place where suffering is not, where there is no suffering .. I would not like to go to a place where there is no suffering. I would not like to send my children to a place where there is no suffering, because, in such a place, they have no way to learn how to be understanding and compassionate. (From Brother Thay, A Radio Pilgrimage, June 4, 2009.)
Sadness is the state of being aware of the suffering; seeing both sides of the truth, all of the truth, and the practice is in learning to bring the mind back into balance. Most importantly, sadness is nothing to escape from. The longer we can sit in the sadness, the more we can look into it, and see where it comes from, what we can learn from it. Ultimately, the more we are with the sadness, it usually dissolves and as the balance is found, the lightness breaks through. No matter how cloudy the skies, the sun is always there.