I’ve been grappling with some weird health issues for – what feels like – a looooong time. And as with anything that lingers or persists, I have to ask myself, what am I resisting? But does one accept ill health when it feels so horrid?
As mentioned in February’s Happy Notes newsletter, I believe that I may have found some insight into this from the Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh’s quote, which highlighted the difference between ‘being understanding’ and ‘trying to understand’:
“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. you look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family [and i would like to add with ourselves in some way, like an illness], we blame the other person [or ourselves]. Bu if we know how to take care of them [ourselves], they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, you can love and the situation will change.” – Buddhist Master Thich Nhat Hanh
I have been ‘trying to understand’ with fierce determination: Why is this happening to me? Why is my body creating new illnesses which slow me down and tire me out? Round and round I go, seeking, questioning…which has brought doubt and more self doubt. I can see that this search for answers is a form of aversion (just another way to add suffering to my existing health struggles) and is also a happiness trap: If only I could understand why I struggle with my health, then I will be able to fix it, and then I will be healthy and happy. The ongoing search for answers is exhausting. And so, this pursuit of understanding and fixing has become a classic example of ‘what I resist, persists.’
While ‘trying to understand’ comes from the mind, ego, and reasoning, ‘being understanding’ comes from the heart. By letting go of my need for logic, reasoning etc., I can release labels and judgements: “It should be different.”, “Why am I not getting better when I am doing everything I have been told to do?” etc. Even though I don’t have all the information and I don’t understand my body right now, I can choose to be more understanding: “My body is uncomfortable right now, and it is not easy for me – but it is also not always so.”
When I hold myself with the attitude of compassionate understanding, I feel relief! I can end the relentless search and push to find answers, and rest in the not knowing. I can be understanding towards my self in this moment AND give myself what I need (like the lettuce) to the best of my ability AND own the part I play in my current state without being a victim, without blame.
I would love to hear from you what you think about the difference between trying to understand the whys of your life and just being understanding. Can you feel any the difference? How does this play out in your life?