Party for one, that's a pity party! I had my first post-accident full-blown pity party a couple weeks ago. Oh aren't they so sad? I know you've been there too. And I write this not so we can commiserate, but so we can stop the madness. No more pity parties.
You might be thinking that it's justified in this case. I was after all bombarded by a full-size pick-up, thrown fifteen feet, left for dead, and multiply broken. But it's not a reason to cultivate suffering on top of suffering or indulge in ego-clinging. I mean why? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why would we want to make things worse? What value is there in emotional pain? Can we find a way out and be happy? Yes, we can.
Here are some signs you are hosting a party for one:
1. NOBODY STATEMENTS: as in "Nobody understands what I'm going through" or "Nobody remembers to call and check on me"
2. EVERYBODY STATEMENTS: such as "Everybody has an easier life than I do" or "Everybody else is having a good time but me"
Don't you feel depressed already? But wait, there's more...
3. SUFFERING LISTS: anything you can add up like "I haven't slept in exactly 65 days" or "I've been in constant pain for 6000 hours"
4. NEGATIVE REMINISCING: thinking about what could have been...what might have been...how things used to be better.
I cried really hard. I called a friend. I complained. I did everything on the list. It felt crappy and pitiful. Then I remembered a little post-it note a friend had by her computer "If there is suffering, there is ego". Then I remembered my commitment to the Buddhist path. I gently grabbed my attitude from the gutter and told myself that all this suffering was due to my own ego-clinging. I was making things worse for myself.
Here are some ways to make a graceful exit from the Oh So Pitful Pity Party...
1. HEARTMIND PAUSE: take a moment to just stop everything. bring your breath and awareness into your heart space. breathe. pause. rest.
2. INNER SMILE: put on your inner smile. neuroscience shows that this helps turn on the feel-good part of the brain. just a little smile in every cell.
3. PRESENT MOMENT: focus on the present moment. what is actually happening right now? not the past and future happening in the thoughts, but the what is of now, now, and now.
4. GRATITUDE ADJUSTMENT: open your mind to appreciating all the big and small things in life; all the people who help you; all the ways in which your body and mind do work; all the freedoms and good fortune
Phew, it worked. The party was over but the fun had just begun. I felt lighter and happier and more connected. Ego-grasping only produces isolation, self-obsession, and suffering. So let's remind each other to just stop, pause, and regroup instead of cultivating suffering in our lives.
This is not to say there aren't times for a good cry and compassion for ourselves. But you can feel the difference inside when it gets messy, overblown, and clingy. Let's not go there. We can allow our pain to tenderize us so we feel more compassion and lovingkindness for others. Instead of pity for ourselves.
The next party I'm hosting will be all about joy, connection, and sharing. I hope you can come.
PS the above photo is of my two main teachers, good examples of healthy minds!