Written for a friend, illustrated using photos and ink of another friend.
[This was written with reference to definitions of the three terms coupled with a friend’s personal interpretation of the Three Marks of Existence in relation to her experiences. I’m not Buddhist and I admit to not being completely familiar with these concepts beyond these sources. I apologise in advance if if I have made any mistake or misinterpretation and kindly request that you let me know if this doesn’t sit well. This was not meant to be blasphemous to the beliefs and practices of Buddhism rather a curious exploration of a pattern that is all too familiar among all humans and the way it played itself out in one person’s life-story.]
There is no need to tattoo this word on the body; it exists in small parts of every little cell that makes us whole. Breathing its poisonous toxins into our systems till they circulate around the microcosm that is our being. Seeping into the bloodstream that keeps us alive, rendering the defences of the blood-brain barrier futile and latching themselves onto the machine that powers us. They spark like electricity from neuron to neuron, till the brain itself can take no more, our minds locked in torment, our memories selectively negative.
To shed its load, the brain delegates dukkha to the heart; please, I can’t do this on my own anymore.
The flood continues and soon, the heart is clenching in resistance of the weight it holds back. It goes back and forth between the brain; please make it stop. But the mind is weak.
When both are tired, the floodgates open, like the waters of the Victoria crashing from the still, majestic lake through sluice gates into the valley below. From head to heart to limbs, it spreads crippling insecurities and doubts, taking a toll on the body.
Dukkha presents itself in the downcast eyes or the eyes that stare into the empty distance, lost in a whirlwind under the surface; in the quivering voice, in the scarred wrists, in every tear that they didn’t let you see. Because for too long now we have allowed sadness to equate to shame, made the victim the culprit and allowed these floods to do more damage.
This sadness is layered, entwined with the anxiety or stress of our feeble attempts to try and hold on to things that are constantly changing because we don’t want them to.
Maybe the first step to eliminating or even marginally relieving ourselves from this painful state is to accept that we are not who we were last week, let alone last month, and that the person we were last year doesn’t have to be the person we are tomorrow.
Nothing stays the same; not the world, not the ocean and definitely not the humans that inhabit this planet. The way nations, societies, economies transform with the passage of time, so does the individual person. Imagine the globe locked within the perimeters of the human body, a time-lapse video of the seasons and migrations playing all the while; we hold the world within ourselves, and there’s simply too much possibility for us to ever be expected to remain in one static frame for as long as we live.
This movement is what adds value to the everyday. If you were constantly happy, would you ever learn to weather the sad times? If you were constantly sad, would you ever know how much joy a good thing could bring? They balance themselves out, in a pattern that both teaches and nourishes us – cherish the moments of happiness because one day, things will be darker. Hold fast in the face of darkness because more beautiful days are ahead.
What hurts you today won’t hurt tomorrow; not in the literal calendar sense of things but in the longer timelines of our days – constant change that happens with a few steps that we take in every hour that we are awake, if we allow it.
This is healing. To know that, if you are willing, you are more than capable to overcome. More sadness will surface eventually, yes, but more importantly there is good to be experienced, there is love to be felt, there is light to be absorbed.
‘This too shall pass.’; one quote that is accurate at all times and in all situations.
[I did say that I wasn’t well-versed in the intricacies of these principles and that I was writing based on the interpretation of a friend’s experience with the Cycle. This part is one she is still coming to terms with and one that I am yet to understand, having grasped the essence of the previous two states. This section may include deviations that rely more on our perceptions and ideals. Again, apologies if this offends anyone and let me assure you that that was not the intention – both of us just want to understand, and I felt putting it down in words might help.]
Who are you, really, but a collection of the places that you have been, the people you have met, the words that you have spoken and the emotions that you have felt?
The hands your hands held, the fingers that wrapped through yours, the smile that grew brighter as you drew nearer and the warm embrace that was meant for you?
The trauma of a single night, the months of learning and relearning how to live and love, the muted scars that speak of a battle won?
As much as this collection of memories, experiences and lives come together like paint on canvas to illustrate of who we are, there will come a time when the picture will fade. There will come a time when the cycle, being as it is, will have to keep moving.
What we have and who we know, ultimately, amounts to nothing. And while this philosophy states that there is no ‘self’, I’d like to [not disagree, because I know that many practice and believe this] think that certain parts of ourselves do remain longer than others. The value of everything I own is shadowed by the good that I hope I’ve done, the kindness in the words I’ve spoken and the love that I have shown others. If it is so and who I am will one day cease to exist, I’d choose to be remembered by this part of myself over all others.
This was explained to me over the roar of the sea and the quiet while speeding down a highway in the dark of the night. The words are meant to speak more about what someone felt in the stages of this cycle than what is set down by the one who taught first of these states. These are musings, thoughts put down on Word documents to try and make sense of ideas that are too big for any of us to truly grasp, attempts to understand why we feel as much as we do.