Haig, Matt - Reasons to stay alive - 05 Know thyself
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Matt Haig - Reasons to stay alive
Years later, I would read books on mindfulness and meditation, and realise that the key to happiness – or that even more desired thing, calmness – lies not in always thinking happy thoughts. No. That is impossible. No mind on earth with any kind of intelligence could spend a life-time enjoying only happy thoughts. The key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don't become them.
Understand, for instance, that having a sad thought, even having a continual succession of sad thoughts, is not the same as being a sad person. You can walk through a storm and feel the wind but you know you are not the wind.
That is how we must be with our minds. We must allow ourselves to feel their gales and downpours, but all the time knowing this is just necessary weather.
When I sink deep, now, and I still do from time to time, I try and understand that there is another, bigger and stronger part of me that is not sinking. It stands unwavering. It is, I suppose, the part that would have been once called my soul.
We don't have to call it that, if we think it has too many connotations. We can call it simply a self. Let's just understand this. If we are tired or hungry or hungover, we are likely to be in a bad mood. That bad mood is therefore not really us. To believe in the things we feel at that point is wrong, because those feelings would disappear with food or sleep.
But when I was at my lowest points I touched something solid, something hard and strong at the core of me.
Something imperishable, immune to the changeability of thought. The self that is not only I but also we. The self that connects me to you, and human to human. The hard, unbreakable force of survival. Of life. Of the 150,000 generations of us that have gone before, and of those yet to be born. Our human essence.
Just as the ground below New York and, say, Lagos, becomes identical if you go down far enough beneath the earth's surface, so every human inhabitant on this freak wonder of a planet shares the same core.
I am you and you are me. We are alone, but not alone.
We are trapped by time, but also infinite. Made of flesh, but also stars.
Buddhism does not seem to be about self-punishment.
A key Buddhist symbol is that of the lotus flower. The lotus flower grows in mud at the bottom of a pool but, rises above the murky water and blooms in the clear air, pure and beautiful, before eventually dying. This metaphor for spiritual enlightenment also works as a metaphor for hope and change.
The mud you could see as depression or anxiety. The flowers in the clear air, the self we know we can be, unclogged by despair.