I cried in the shala twice this winter.
Once was when I first got back. I turned the music way up, did a sweaty practice, and then broke down in tears of gratitude for being back there. The second time was my last night there during ecstatic dance. I danced my heart out, and the music spoke to me as if each song was intended just for me. These tears of joy were the culmination of years of longing, and finally, of fulfillment.
Have you ever wanted something so bad that it hurt? And trust me, I know that the reason we suffer is because of our desires. I teach Buddhism all the time. The reality is, this happens to us. It happened to me, this wanting to be back at Suan Sati so bad that I slipped in and out of a mild depression. What the tears taught me was that I had turned down my entire emotional dial to feel less while I was away. I didn’t want to feel the sadness and grief. The unintended side effect of trying to turn down my undesirable emotions was that I turned down all of my emotions.
I was living in a state of ambivalence for nearly two years. I didn’t allow myself to truly experience life’s fullness, as the anxiety of the situation in Thailand was always lurking at the edges of my consciousness. The root of this was likely in response to feeling powerless and out of control. I’m sure a lot of you felt the same during the pandemic too.
We all had/have our ways of coping with it, and I’m not here to judge myself or others about how we handled things. This was an unbelievably difficult time for all of us, and we did all we could to make it through. I hope you can be compassionate with yourself, and recognize that you did the best you could. I’m trying to remind myself of that as I process with this blog.
The tears I shed in the shala were incredibly cathartic. The first time I cried, I felt appreciation to have been given a new lease on life. I vowed to make the best out of this second chance I was given. I’m proud to say I fulfilled that promise to myself. The second time, I felt vindicated, victorious. This was my world championship, my conviction overturned on appeal, my champagne toast on top of the mountain. I knew I could accomplish what I did, what we did this winter, I just needed a chance.
When we nearly ran out of money building Suan Sati 1 and 2, and when we almost didn’t survive during the pandemic shutdown, I kept repeating to myself “Just let me get the doors open, just let me get the doors open”. I begged for a chance, and my prayers were answered at the last minute. Like they always have been. I believe that although the world can be a cruel place, there is parity and balance over the long run. Things will work out, if not now, then in the future. That belief stems from a history in which I’ve always received what I’ve needed. Anything that I needed and didn’t have would come along at the right time. Let’s be clear: that’s a product of my immense privilege. With that privilege, I wield it to believe in the innate goodness of others and the world around me.
I’m still working on finding emotional balance post-pandemic. A big part of that puzzle is naming and becoming familiar with the full range of my emotional spectrum instead of numbing out. For now, I’m just grateful that I was given another chance to fulfill my dharma of holding space for others and myself to rise up into the people we’re destined to be. And that fulfillment is something that always brings joyful tears to my eyes.