Monday, April 18, 2011

Dharma Porridge, Ingredients: Hurt, Rejection & Self Doubt

Yesterday I arrived home after an all day sit at the intensely beautiful Stowel Lake Farm to find a somewhat unpleasant phone message, at least one I didn't appreciate. I won't go into the details but it revolved around a request to hang some of my work. After several trips and some preparation on my part, the person had changed their mind. Now what came up very quickly was not the work I'd done or the time I'd put in to prepare the pieces but the instant arising of the feelings of rejection.

If you write or display art, you are familiar with some level of rejection but sometimes it's the particular circumstances that bring it up more strongly. In this case, having been here, done this before, I wanted to try another way than feeling angry, rejected, and spiraling down the rabbit hole of doubting my own competence (Alice, are you there?).

Yes those things arose (and what is anger, but hurt?) I know this one well. And so while these things arose and I squirmed and looked for a cookie, a cup of coffee, something to ease the sting, I did stay with the sticky, heavy sense, just hanging out with it. But I did another thing. I asked myself a couple of questions. Why do I feel this way? What would I be like if I didn't feel hurt?

The answers were interesting, helpful and strangely comforting. I answered that if I felt confident about myself and my work, I would not take this change of heart in the person as a personal affront. I would simply see it as her changing her mind (for some reasons that I could actually agree with). I could see this as a simple truth, like if you catch your jacket on a nail and it tears. You might not be happy but you see what happened. Humans being slightly more complicated than nails, I can never really know all the reasons.

What this reminded me of was the old Dharma lesson, that if we pin our feelings, our responses, our state of mind, our self worth, our lives on outside circumstances, we will be blown about like a dandelion seed head. There will always be some little breeze pushing us around. I was reminded (not in an ego sort of way) but in a "be a pillar" sort of way, to have confidence, to not throw myself into a vat of doubt, because someone had simply changed their mind. I know this spinning off into doubt intimately, I own a very large loom, built specifically for this purpose. In fact if I didn't know better, I'd think I invented this particular loom (rhymes with doom and gloom).

It was a wonderful Dharma lesson and I must say I moved in and out of darkness for the evening, this being a long standing habitual response for me; me, oh lover of approval. But this morning I could pick up my art work, have a chat about why it didn't work for the recipient and give her a hug before I left. (She has her own set of troubles). It felt good and it was all over. No karmic residue, no dark cloud following me around. And this is truly why I practice the Dharma. So I can live a slightly saner life, with a little less suffering.


  1. As an after thought this is an example of the suffering that leads to the end of suffering as opposed to former responses I might have had which are simply suffering that leads to more suffering!

  2. Well, ta da! Good for you! To make a change like that is really powerful. For one thing you remained thoughtful enough to be "at choice". Myself, that cookie usually is the first balm I try and apply to the wound...

    I have recently been wondering why humans have emotions.....not that I wouldn't want to, but why are we so quiescently sensitive?

  3. Wonderful sharing . . and inspiring . . and it takes courage. There are not many who really do this kind of self-searching. We often forget how brave we are . . to question our hurt. Thank you for posting this.

    I often think I'm making headway with not creating stories in my mind about "such-and-such" or "so-and-so". Then something "comes up", I create a story, and it turns out that "my" reality is nothing like "their" reality. And so we keep learning . . over and over. :-)

  4. Great thoughtful journey 'there and back' did it!! So well...witnessing and observing and allowing and honoring...and a little cookie is a good thing too!

    This is Ph.D work with those ol' afflicted emotions.

  5. Wonderful experience - watching it all unfold as you still did your little dance - all with a sense of awareness :) All your insights are quite helpful for me as well, as I'm trying to be more of a passenger to my experience, and not get so invested in it, as you describe here. Loved hearing you describe your process. Wonderful picture too! Kudos to you! :)

  6. thanks for telling your story. yes, so easy to go into stories around what happens. you so beautifully describe both choices, creating more suffering by the reaction, or just feeling the pain and moving on and not creating more suffering for yourself.

    The pond will speak.

  7. Leslie - cookies ARE good! I think we only ask ourselves why we have emotions when they're difficult, don't you think?? Or perhaps there is the slightly bittersweetness of joy and love??

    Jann - It's true, we think we know other people's reality and then we hear a little something and find our wrong our assumptions were!

    merci 33- it was, is a journey, and it seems more painful these days not to take it!

    MeANderi - it is fun to slow the process down and see each part, isn't it? And when we're invested, well, good to remember we're doing the best we can at that moment.

    Suki - My Zen teacher used to say "we have more choices that we think" Ah, yes the pond!

  8. Lovely post, and I am very familiar with the old friend "self doubt".

    I really admire your courage. As an artist, you put yourself out there again and again in such a personal way. Being "okay" with whatever reaction you get back is such a beautiful place to be - so generous to yourself and the people around you. I really value hearing about these challenges as I go through my own ups and downs of putting myself out there.

  9. Beautiful Carol! As usual, whatever you wrote here resonates deeply. We may not be able to choose our guests, but at least we can decide on how to entertain them . . . I am a big fan of investigation :)

  10. spirit - it feels pretty naked out there sometimes! such a good place to practice, though.

    Marguerite - I like that, "we may not be able to choose our guests, but at least we can decide how we entertain them" Nice!