“I got nighty nine problems but a bitch ain’t one” is a horrendously offensive line from a rap song from the ultra-materialist Jay-Z, but the origins of that line go back millennia.
Whilst I may have personally been impacted by the pull of the brace of supermoons recently, and unconsciously by the pandemic, there is something not right at my core. I feel like there is a huge fatberg in the sewers of my mind, building up quickly now, and with it a huge pressure on the entire system.
Why I gravitated to the dusty tomes in my loft this week I don’t know. As I have been off work this week enjoying the sunshine, I took some time to rearrange my personal bookcase in the bedroom, with the four quadrants of my Billy bookcase organised from left to right (History, Science, Noetics and Nature). Alas, one book was missing (and I didn’t even know I was looking for it) in Steve Hagen’s Buddhism: Plain and Simple.
Eager to reread, I recalled buying it on iBooks several years ago, so spent some time this week refreshing my memory on the content, whilst the physical book remained hidden somewhere in the attic.
The book explains the concept of duhkha, not easily translated into English, but can be attempted by saying dissatisfaction or as the book puts it, those things that puts our wheel out of kilter.
The extract below details quite accurately explains the human condition today and how none of us really want any problems to deal with:
Once upon a time an affluent farmer approached Buddha with great hope. He prostrated before the sage and sought his blessings. Buddha raised his hand in benediction.
“O Venerable One!” the farmer said, “I have a major problem and I know only you can help me.”
Buddha kept quiet and the man went onto narrate that his good-for-nothing son was troubling him and that he was mad at his wife because she supported her son over him.
The man said, “Do something so their minds change and they realise how much I’m doing for them.”
“I can’t solve this problem for you,” Buddha replied and lowered his eyes again, in a meditative state.
The farmer told Buddha how he was worried about the upcoming harvest as the weather didn’t seem too favorable and the monkeys were destroying his crop.
“I can’t help you with this one either,” Buddha said calmly.
Still hoping in the powers of Buddha, he told him that many people owed him money and he was having hard time recovering it from his debtors. And that he too owed money to lenders and creditors. He asked Buddha if the sage could give him any remedy or amulet.
“Hmm…” Buddha said, “I can’t solve this problem for you.”
“What good are you then?” the man yelled. “Every one says you are the enlightened one and here you can’t solve any of my problems. Is there absolutely nothing you can do? I’m tired of my terrible life.”
“You see,” Buddha said patiently, as if he hadn’t heard the man’s tirade, “at any point in time, you’ll always have 84 problems in your life. The 84th is the key.
If you solve the 84th problem, the first 83 will resolve themselves.”
“Please solve my 84th problem then,” the man said, going back to being humble. “How do I do it?” he added.
“First, we have to identify your 84th problem.”
“What is my 84th problem?”
Buddha smiled and peered deeply into the man’s eyes that were full of desire, doubt and anxiety.
“Your 84th problem is,” Buddha said and paused, “you want to get rid of the first 83 problems.”
So whilst I understand that we can’t solve all of our problems, and that if we do pop a few off our list, inevitably a few new ones will be added, I felt it was time to actually document all of the things that cause me duhkha right now, and see if any (or all of them) are significantly increasing the size of the fatberg that grows within.
The process is the same as Step Four from the 12 Steps to Recovery programme those with serious addictions go through, and it was quite cathartic jotting those down and reflecting just how much each one was impacting my being.
The list below is a definitive one, and although no doubt others would add a few more, this captures enough for me to cogitate on for a while. They formed natural clusters once the list was complete, so it felt natural to categorise them:
◦ I don’t like the ethics of the company I work for
◦ I don’t feel in control of my own career
◦ I don’t like my job
◦ I don’t trust my chain of command
◦ I don’t like the ringing in my head (tinnitus)
◦ I don’t like the pain in my “man pipes”
◦ I don’t eat the right things, too much processed food
◦ I drink alcohol but I don’t like it’s effects any more
◦ I don’t exercise enough
◦ I don’t walk the dog enough
Mental Well Being
◦ I don’t relax enough
◦ I don’t do yoga enough
◦ I don’t do meditation enough
◦ I don’t speak nicely enough (curse too much)
◦ I don’t want to be stressed
◦ I don’t have enough like-minded friends
◦ I don’t spend enough time socialising / connecting with friends
◦ I don’t spend enough time with my sister/niece
◦ I don’t speak to my parents
◦ I don’t like how I am too self-righteous and judge others on their actions/inactions
◦ I don’t like the way I judge others on how they look and not how they are
◦ I don’t do enough for others
◦ I don’t like having a big mortgage
◦ I don’t like the way I spend too much money on things I don’t need
◦ I don’t like the way society is (broken) but do little to change it
◦ I don’t read enough books
◦ I don’t blog enough
◦ I don’t spend enough time learning the ukulele
◦ I don’t spend enough time with nature
◦ I don’t do enough sports
◦ I don’t want to live my life without being enlightened
◦ I don’t connect with my higher self
◦ I don’t always make the right choices
◦ I don’t react well in conflict situations (too quick without thinking)
◦ I don’t like the way I want to control things beyond my control
◦ I don’t like acting upon my cravings rather than acknowledging them
◦ I don’t like feeding the addictions my ego desires (sugar, alcohol)
◦ I don’t always make the right choices
◦ I don’t like other people controlling what I do, how I look
It’s quite some list, and likely not unique either, I’m sure most of us have experienced some, most or all of them over time, and perhaps continue to do so.
The more serious ones, the ones impacting my mental and physical state of being, do need to be addressed now.
Acknowledging our duhkha list is, in my opinion, the first step to recovery and unblocking the sewer, just how we do that depends on many factors, but the overriding one for me is courage, courage to make difficult decisions or to change deeply engrained and programmed habits and behaviours.
To have that mindset, that ability and willingness to change, often needs a catalyst, and that will be the topic for my next blog.
Enter, The Ice Man, Wim Hof!