Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why I Can't Stay in the Moment (or The Futility of Abandoning Expectations)

"Feeling better?" My colleague asked.

"Yes," I said. "I went to Confession."

"Is that a Wednesday thing?"

I paused. Was it a Wednesday thing? Confession was something I had done weekly on nearly every day of the week over the past year. "It's a Lenten thing," I finally said.

"Is Easter done?"

"No, Lent is the period leading up to Easter. Don't you know that?"

"Why would I know that? I don't observe it. My parents raised me Buddhist."

So I sat down and talked with him about how Buddhism had held a strange magic for me following our trip to Thailand.

Buddhism still has its allure for me: the smells, the rituals, the seeking. The control of emotions when faced with loss and the establishment of boundaries to avoid becoming too attached. In my readings on Buddhism, one writer said that to attain the highest level within Buddhism, one ceased being human. I suppose if one no longer felt, that might classify as non-human, but does the definition of human neccesarily need emotions? It is interesting that a commenter on a blog that cited this article, asked, "If a human succeeds in “ceasing to desire,” as Edelman puts it, he will suffer less, but will he also lose the ability to fully enjoy?"

What a relief it would be to be able to abandon expectations, to never feel disappointment or to disappoint others.

And in Confession, one of the things I asked was when does this detachment become pathological? When does willing oneself to not feel and setting boundaries become sick and maladaptive, and not spiritual? "That's a good question," he said.