Suffering, Individuality, Joy and Selfishness

So, I quit smoking five weeks ago.


Suffering (Photo credit: Loulair Harton)

I’ll just let that sink in. Yes, the yoga teacher smoked. I could give you all the mitigating factors I always gave myself… I only smoked on duty as a Paramedic, in uniform, in the middle of the night… but it doesn’t matter. The yoga teacher smoked. Everyone gasp in unison.

I gave it up when I gave up believing that my suffering was necessary. I knew for at least a year before I quit that the reason I smoked was to keep from crying. It was also an effective way to stay awake, but I knew the deep down reason was so that I wouldn’t cry. It is impossible for me to smoke and cry simultaneously. Perhaps it’s a chemical, maybe it’s the inhalation pattern, or maybe it’s some meaning thing I played …. tough girls smoke but don’t cry …. but it’s how it works for me.

And one day I decided it was too high a price. I’d rather cry. Yes, on duty, in uniform, I cry. Didn’t used to, saved it up for when I got off duty, after the uniform was in a pile on the floor.

And then today I was bubbling in a hot tub at 10,000 Waves in Santa Fe, overcome by beauty, love and fortune, and felt a deep seated sense of suffering just rise up out of me and dissolve in the mist and mountain air. I had a pang of ownership, of needing, of wanting to feel like I had done something worthy of this dissolution, like I had purified and purged myself in some deserving manner. Suffered enough.

And in the mist and beauty it came to me: who says it’s your suffering? What made you think God wanted to you bear it? or purge it? or purify it? or own it in any way?

And I knew why I thought so: because, I thought, my suffering makes me who I am. I created it or it is my legacy from things done to me, a badge, a mark, a stigmata of individuality.

I must bear the mark until I thouroughly purge the cause, whether I committed it or had it committed upon me, this was my way of making meaning, making sense of the pain and incongruities of my life.

But, what if we are not atomic selves, individuals cast adrift in a sea of randomness in search of meaning? What if we are each unique expressions of consciousness, but consciousness is itself a relational factor? What if we are God’s way of experiencing itself, deeply inter-related? What if God knew – knows – that limited consciousnesses aren’t equipped to bear all the pain of knowing? What if God never expected we would try to bear it, try to act is if our integrity & sovreignty as human beings depended upon this suffering born of limitations and bodies and what we do to one another? What if this is the remnant of an adolescent revolt against the connections of childhood, connections we must find a way to contain within the more expansive scope of an adult life?

And I felt a deep sense of Joy and connectedness at giving up what once seemed to define me. What once seemed so selfish to let go of now seemed selfish to retain. Armor I no longer need against threats that long ago ceased to threaten. Selfish conceit, this attachment to old!

And vulnerable freedom this acceptance of connection, rendering of responsibility for something I couldn’t possibly contain, accepting limitation, but also the limitation of what harms. If both capacities for joy and pain are limited, perhaps we are free to feel each in turn, only when they are necessary and to let them go when the moments have passed. Perhaps I can be free to meet the moments without injunctions of feeling or attachments to old meanings and selves. It doesn’t leave much of a self, but perhaps it leaves enough. Enough to love.

6 thoughts on “Suffering, Individuality, Joy and Selfishness

  1. Pingback: Quit Smoking » Blog Archive » Suffering, Individuality, Joy and Selfishness

  2. That is just lovely. Thank you.

    And, smoking is hard to walk away from, especially as an antidote to crying. This yoga teacher also had to quit smoking, but it was 5 years ago. The crying is annoying sometimes, but then again, the smoking is too.

  3. My ex-husbands brother died a couple of weeks ago due to smoking. Anyone who quits should be highly commended.

    I’ve been addicted to smoking, but ‘thinking’ yes.

    Anyways… i was so shocked when I heard about Bob,my brother in law. A few years back he had 2 operations on his leg and was told twice to quit smoking by the doctors or they would cut his leg off if the problem happened again. It happened a 3rd time and they literally cut his leg off! Oh my God. I couldn’t believe it. He died a few weeks back after living with one leg and still not quiting smoking. phew!

    now if we could all just give up our ‘ addiction to thinking’ and the addiction of believing the thoughts!

  4. I didn’t gasp, Yoga teachers are human too and I would rather be taught by a teacher who understood what it was like to go through the struggle of things like wanting to give up smokeing and knowing how hard it is than some perfect together person who has no idea of what the journy is like.

    You strike me as someone who knows what the journey is and people like that are the best teachers

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