I identify as female and as a sober person, and I fucking love creativity. They help me cultivate the fuck out of joy, but I know, I know, I would be cool and definitely okay if they ever fell apart.
In fact, all the stuff could fall the fuck apart, and I would be okay. Between the Buddhist practices I’ve been exposed to and the incredible community of Recovery Dharma, I have had such an education in navigating through the joys, pains, and impermanence of life. Through this recovery education, a greater sense of deep peace and unconditional wellness have been cultivated in me, and, for that, I am forever grateful.
That said, the mission of this column is to talk about the beauty and hardship of sobriety . So in this first article, I’m going to cover some good ol’ suffering, sensations, and how I can get confused with what the fuck to do with these phenomena, while trying to make way for a newly sober life.
The Suffering that Leads to the End of Suffering
There is an expression I’ve heard a lot in the meditation talks and shares of Recovery Dharma: “the suffering that leads to the end of suffering.” I like this expression because it reminds me that suffering is necessary.
There is a kind of suffering that carries us to the other side of something. It is a profound and beautiful vessel to rest upon, albeit messy AF. It is the kind of suffering that has space; the kind that doesn’t need to burrow a hole between the eyes, doesn’t own judgement, doesn’t answer to a deadline, a shitty job, or a shitty person; a suffering that acknowledges itself, the body, and, most of all, the heart–that huge and amazing space in all beings that can harbor compassion, patience, and serenity for the self, not-self, and all things. This is the suffering that leads to the end of suffering.
The shit where I’m ruminating about the look my mentor gave me, or failed to, after I shared about something gross going on with me, that’s not the suffering that leads to the end of suffering. That’s just dumb suffering, or “second arrow” suffering (second arrow suffering = the suffering I create through my reaction to events).
In my experience, the difference between the two can be felt in the body. I feel an enormous letting go and surrender when I’m experiencing the suffering that leads to the end of suffering. I experience it like clenched fists finally opening.
Usually, I find that the expansive suffering always comes at the end of the “second arrow” session, and it happens no matter what. At some point, I’ll simply exhaust myself into complete defeat through rumination and proliferation of a harmful thought, until the time that the mind and body finally hit a wall and die. From this place, the “suffering that leads to the end of suffering” can finally be experienced more fully through me, since I’m too tired to fight for my second arrow any longer.
The Starting that Leads to Terror that Leads to Teacher
When I begin things I know or have known, when I start things I don’t know, when I engage new life material whether it be pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral–be it in sobriety, creativity, or relational–these experiences can trigger the dust of the fear/survival reactions. To be clear, sensations and memories and stories are all always available to be kicked up in the brain and body. Oftentimes, when I have broken my sobriety practice it has been due to my identification with these sensations. And it’s fucking scary what the mind kicks up.