I was 32 years old when I had my “mid-life crisis”. It was at that time I had achieved, or nearly achieved, everything I wanted in my life. My foundation seemed complete and everything else was on cruise control. This plummeted me into an emotional place where I could rally no happiness or contentment.
My August 1, 1997 journal entry:
June/July were very difficult. I was doing 5+ meetings a week; treading water, not feeling any relief. I was without words to accurately describe it. Sometimes it was strong emotional pain without a current cause to explain it. Then I was feeling dissatisfaction. I was walking around saying, “I have everything” and not feeling the way I expected. I expected joy to happen when I had everything.
What I was reacting to, with my depression, was the realization that my outside circumstances do not make me happy. What is outside me is transient and even if something gives me pleasure it is a pleasure that does not last. On the path to enlightenment this would be considered the first step.
I would not have sought to end my suffering with a spiritual solution if I had not realized first that the material world could not provide me with satisfaction. My depression was simply a reaction to the loss of that illusion. If I had not so strongly thought that getting a stable home and the community I was looking for could bring me happiness I would not have been so pained when I realized it was not true.
It wasn’t until a decade later that I “discovered” that the Buddha taught how to find everlasting peace and joy. Perhaps, my dark period would not have been so difficult if I had know there really was an alternative. I was told I had to accept life on life’s terms. While that is good advice for finding peace in the moment, the Buddha taught how to take control and change life to create a “perfect” world.
This is coming up today for me, because on Sunday, September 7th I will be teaching the first class in the Asian Classics Institute Course 1 – The Principal Teachings of Buddhism. It is with great joy I share with others how to change their world and create eternal bliss. I am looking forward to being with people that also want to end suffering.