Pushing Away the World

July 2009

I often hear patients say, “I’ve been healthy, and this stupid pain happened.” “I just hate this weird numbing sensation in my body which makes me feel that I am not normal” “I experienced depression before and I can’t let it come back.” “This pain and this depression prevent me from enjoying my life. I can’t do anything.” What they are really saying is, “Please get rid of what I don’t want, then I will be ok.” If you are also struggling with not feeling well because of something in your life that’s been bothering you, I would like to share with you my experience. I hope that will help you to make this summer a vacation away from struggle into enjoyment.

I have always hated noise. Especially noise made by big machines. I had to get rid of it, otherwise I would not be able to enjoy anything. So I don’t know what I was thinking when I sat down with my husband one Sunday morning on the grass close to Granville Island. The road construction crews were working our right side, and I heard loud noise from the bulldozer driving on the pavement. I felt the vibration and smelled the faint yet very noticeable smell of asphalt. I automatically turned toward my left side to search for a refuge. The green grass stretched peacefully in front of me. Trees were lustrously green and flowers were dancing in the gentle wind. People were lying on the grass, relaxing in the sun and enjoying themselves. I realized that I was sitting in the middle of two contrasting worlds: one is the noisy, bustling urban area and the other quiet and peaceful country. I thought, “That damned noise, vibration and smell. If only they didn’t exist so that I could enjoy this beautiful summer day!” (All these thoughts happened while I was having a conversation with my husband. If you pay attention, you’ll be amazed that how capable your mind is; you can generate millions of useless thoughts while your are in the middle of doing something.) I was not able to stand up and leave because I was in the middle of the conversation.

Then my husband stopped talking and was in deep thoughts. Suddenly the noise, the vibration and the smell gushed to me like dammed up water and refused to be ignored. I tried harder to focus on the “reality” that I wanted, the green trees, grass, the beautiful flowers. I held onto them desperately to cover up the other “reality” that I didn’t want. The vibration, the noise and the smell crept up the moment I let down my effort of pushing them away. And each time when they came back, they seemed to become more intense, more unpleasant and it took me more effort to push them away. I was tired of making the effort. I was not enjoying myself because I had to be vigilant to the appearance of what I didn’t want.

It became absurd. I was fighting to get what I wanted only to experience more of what I didn’t want!

The more I wanted the noise and the smell to go away, the more I was affected by them to the extent that I was not able to enjoy what was I wanted — the trees, the flowers, the peace and enjoyment which were also right in front of me.

And then I had an insight.

I was not in the middle of two contrasting worlds. I was in the middle of one world and it was my mind that divided it into two, one for joy and one for suffering. And my mind said that I had to get rid of the suffering world in order to live in the world of joy.

But it was only one world. I looked around. I saw again the trees, the flowers, the sunshine on the grass, people laughing, and bulldozer running on the road, cars driving by on the bridge. I heard the noise from the traffic, the construction, people taking, laughing, birds twittering, fountain splashing; I felt the vibration from the bulldozer, the wind caressing my skin, the sun warm on my body, I smelt the asphalt, the fragrance of flowers, freshness of grass, the exhaust from cars. The peace and beauty was not affected by the noise, the noise is not covered by the peace and beauty.

They were one reality. I sat there and let in all that there was. The wall fell. I was ok and at ease.

If you are like me when I first sat down, not able to enjoy your life because you are struggling to push away what you don’t want to experience — be it pain, depression, anxiety, troublesome relationships, or work stress — I would like to invite you to sit with the experience you don’t want , together with other beautiful, enjoyable elements in your life that you do want. Pushing away and resisting to what is doesn’t help you to improve your quality of life. It only creates struggle and more fear. There are unpleasant things in your life. No matter how hard you try to hide it, to ignore it, to deny it, to run away from it, the fact is: they are there. And the moment you stop covering your eyes, they are right in front of your face staring at you with more intensity than before. Why not stare back? When you let go of the fight, you change your relationship to your experience. You are ok. You are the chooser.

Let’s be clear: I still would not deliberately choose a construction site to have an intimate conversation, a noisy street for my house, or the rumble of a bulldozer rather than classic music. But if these noises happens to be there in my world, they will not determine the outcome of my experience. I, not my environment, determine my enjoyment. That is freedom.

Would you want the freedom of enjoying more of your life? It is here now.