Isn’t it interesting how you start one project with a clear idea of what you’d like to focus on, and then you end up with an entirely different topic in your head?
This happens to me a lot. ADHD, y’know. I don’t mind; it’s a bit inconvinient at times, but I make the best of it. Where was I going with this? Ah, right: I want to focus this post on Zen Buddhism instead of exclusively on politics like I had planned to; I had a whole post typed out about the rise of populism in the West and other not so cheery things, and I decided that I needed a break. Or rather we all need a break. Zen and politics may not seem related at all, but they are entirely interelated to me, because I take on board way too much stress as both a perfectionist in my studies and an empath who chooses to study some horrific events in the world, both past and present. Zen helps me calm down a little bit, although my practice isn’t as far advanced as those who can meditate without disturbance.
Gratefulness.org posts a question on their Facebook page every day for followers to ponder. Although not a Zen Buddhist site, the practice of mindfulness and gratefulness is very much in Zen tradition.
This particular question of What does the dark allow me to see? resonated with me because of my history of depression, which is something I have battled since I was a young teenager and will continue to have to do so for my entire life. It’s just one of those things. I’ve more or less made peace with this prospect. And I am speaking about it because I’ve tried to hide it almost all of my life and I’m tired of contributing to my own shame and to the shame of others who battle mental illnesses.
The darkness I’ve felt many times has given me more empathy towards others, both humans and animals — a desire to want to help, to want to make things better, or at least as okay as I can contribute to them being.
I try because I don’t like the idea of knowing I have caused pain or am contributing to it, because I know what pain feels like very well. I know exactly what feeling like you’re lost at sea during a winter storm in rough waters without a liferaft in sight feels like. It’s for this reason as well that I wish to use my education to hopefully influence provincial and/or federal policies toward mental health care and addiction services and improve conditions and funding for various community projects. My passion is examining contemporary (the last three decades or so) civil wars and genocides in the continent of Africa. I’ve been to two countries in Africa, and as lovely as the countries were (Senegal and Morocco), I didn’t go for the purposes I’d like, which is gathering information to retell the invaluable stories which have been told whilst they were au courant, but need to be revisited and retold. We must never forget any tragic event in human history, for if we forget, we are more destined to repeat it, as the oft-paraphrased quotation goes.
Would I be drawn to suffering if I didn’t know it myself? Probably not. And for that, I am grateful, because I feel I finally have a purpose, and maybe, just maybe, I can contribute to a greater good in whatever minuscule way possible.
And for anyone who is wondering: my Dharma name, which was chosen for me by my sangha, is Compassionate Refuge of the Heart.