I think we need to start with “Dukkha.”
What is dukkha?
Dukkha is a Sanskrit word that is at the heart of the First Noble Truth in Buddhism. How this normally ends up translated is like this: “Life is suffering.”
Sounds horrible, right?
You might agree with that if you’re very cynical, have had a hard life, or you might disagree with that if you’re a positivity thinker.1
The phrase makes Buddhism sound sort of horrible and pessimistic. It’s also, from what I’ve long understood, an incorrect translation.
The explanation of dukkha that I’ve liked best is that of a potter’s wheel being off-kilter. It’s sort of wobbly, and something’s just not right; something’s off-kilter. It’s a feeling that has sort of pervaded my life and that, if asked, I wouldn’t call suffering though, really, a sort of suffering it is.
And I’ve found more things in my life that engender this feeling and, somehow, sort of nurtured those thoughts or ideas to the point that it’s sort of my superpower. I’m DukkhaGirl! It’s a horrible superpower to have, and, unfortunately, I know I am not the only one “gifted” in this particular way. However, reveal this specific “talent” to others and, I end up getting told to “be positive” or “smile more.”2
The history behind DukkhaGirl, the blog.
I am one of those who was far on the “I” on the introversion spectrum as a kid. But in my little, introverted, turtle shell, what I largely did was write. And the seeds you water, grow.
I made picture books and poems, occasionally crawling out of my introvert cocoon to populate the grade school classroom bookshelves with them. While I did well in college in most subjects, writing became the area I truly excelled. But life took another path. I talked myself out of trying for a writing career on the advice of people who knew what I shouldn’t do without reading a word of my writing. I went into a medical profession, which paid the bills but wasn’t an area I ever felt like I genuinely belonged or went beyond.
Writing came naturally to me. Dealing with people did NOT. But sometimes, dealing with difficulties can make you grow. It can also leave you with many regrets. Sometimes it does a bit of both.
But I kept writing off and on, occasionally sending a piece out for publication. Around 2009 or so, my oldest daughter got invited on a cross-country RV trip with a friend. I was doing the stay-at-home-mom thing for a while; suddenly, I had some extra time on my hands. So…why not start a blog? I’d been meditating off and on for years and was then keeping up a daily sitting practice. So I decided to write about my experiences and thoughts about Buddhism and life, and “DukkhaGirl” was the result.
I was astonished (and maybe a little afraid) when I found that people were actually reading it. “Perplexity” was semi-sarcastic yet real. And she was me (as much as writing under a false name could be). I wrote with a pseudonym as I’d written and published stuff featuring my daughter, who did NOT like being the subject of my essays. Also, the economy was facing a downturn right then and I was going back into the career for which I had a degree, as my family depended on me doing so.
I had subtitled the blog “One woman’s search for everything here and now and in her own backyard,” at one point to kind of match the subtitle of “Eat, Pray, Love” which was annoying me at that time because, you know, sour grapes. I couldn’t travel the world, I needed to find a way to be happy here and now, defined by the things I could do, not the things I couldn’t.
Writing DukkhaGirl was mostly fun. At the time, I was an avid reader of other Buddhist blogs and I was doing writing for the sheer act of writing rather than trying to monetize a website or get something published.
Blogging, however, had its downsides, too. Blogging meant more involvement with social media and looking at analytics. I don’t like the “me” who starts getting too concerned with followers or “likes” or analytics. If you want to increase your dukkha, compare yourself with others. Social media is a great tool for that.
Still, I liked writing a blog. Pushing that “publish” button has always felt satisfying.
But, as life always goes, things changed.
Was it Ashleigh Brilliant who said, “I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack all at once?”
Several days attacked.
One was in the form of my blog getting hacked and not feeling like I had the time to fix it. Yes, I know better now and always keep a backup. The second thing was that I had started to regularly sit with a Zen group and, somehow, convinced myself that I knew nothing and should stop writing about Buddhism as I had “no authority to teach.” This idea represents the kind of Dukkha that I do so well!
There is nothing wrong with writing about your practice if you do not make any claims of credentials, lineage, etc. And you can write to your heart’s content about various historical figures, writing, etc. if you’re writing is original and you’re careful to cite your sources.
The third through fifth things were huge and happened around the same time: my mom declined and then died from ALS, my adolescent daughter was having issues and, finally, was diagnosed with autism((With all of the mom guilt for thinking I should have caught it earlier, especially since I’m a therapist, just not a childrens’ therapist.)) and there was an episode where my much-older siblings had moved my mom to a new facility without telling me — which triggered all of the feelings of being “other” and “separate” that had been my constant companions growing up.
My response? Should it have been “sit more, practice more”? Yes! But what did I do? Quit!
In retrospect, I did the right things with my daughter((Some of it contrary to the advice of others and which turned out the right thing to do)), and she’s now a young adult and in college. Outside of my work, though, and my attention to both her issues and my older daughter, I quit. I left my meditation group. Part of this quitting was necessary to attend to the moment’s needs, but I also stopped everything that had sustained me and made me feel stronger and connected. Of course, this makes me aware that practice, meditation–the whole shebang–works.
The good news is that it’s always there, and you can come back to it. (Though getting your butt back on that cushion can be as difficult, at first, as when you first started to sit.)
Stay in the present, Perplexity!
OK, back to the now. I wasn’t really a girl when I started DukkhaGirl. I’m less of one now. I haven’t yet entered the ranks of the old yet, I think– except, perhaps, in the eyes of my daughters.
I finally was able to quit my job to attend to my daughter’s needs. I was somehow also able to “get out of my own backyard” and take a few of those trips of which I’d dreamed.
Somehow, I found that some of DukkhaGirl still lived on the Internet. Funny how that happens and interesting what survives. And I discovered that I had renewed interest in trying to write about Buddhism again. I started trying to rewrite some of what I could recollect from the old blog. But that was then (Yes, I’m avoiding the pun, here, but not the cliché), and this is now.
I’m not sure how well I “write” anymore; I only know that I have a solid motivation to do so. Blogging kind of feels, sometimes, like I’m back putting my little books on the fourth-grade classroom bookshelf. And it’s becoming a sort of practice for me. Can I do it, is the question without the attachment? Without letting it take over my life? Without getting distracted by stats or needing “likes?” Can I do it, again, just for the sake of writing?
And I’m not sure how well things I wrote in 2010 would go over in 2021. Who needs yet another article on the importance of a morning routine? (You have one? Good for you! I don’t need to know its details!) Who needs another blog post on how to meditate?
I started trying to write/rewrite the posts elsewhere, but these things wanted their own blog. Yes, I could choose to write on Medium vs. making a blog, but I dislike the sound of one clap clapping on Medium. I’m trying to keep social media here at a minimum.
Who are you?
I don’t know. No, really! But I’m trying to get reacquainted.
I am not a Buddhist teacher. I have been meditating off and on since I was 16. Meditation was not cool (at least not with my friends), and I had never heard the word “mindfulness.” But I tried a LOT of different paths and techniques, and there were many, many stops along the way.
I’m not even sure that I can call myself Buddhist. I’m back to connecting with a Zen group regularly, resuming my sitting practice. I’ve never done the Jukai ceremony — my primary teacher rarely gives it to anyone.
I would call myself an atheist, though one very interested in religion. I don’t believe in God in any traditional sense of the world. But the feeling I get when encountering the natural world, especially when I’m alone and quiet, often approaches a sense of religious awe.
So, what will this new blog be?
There’s already much “out there” about Buddhism, mindfulness, and the like. I’ll write whatever is telling me it wants to be written. I plan to adjunct a little glossary onto this website, sort of a wiki for some of the references I make.
I will likely write some memoir/personal experience stuff, not necessarily about Buddhism but the process by which I joined the ranks of atheists or agnostics.3 I might write about my thoughts on various areas of Buddhist practice or some issue that, for me, causes doubt or that I find questionable. I’m sure I’ll write reviews of related books, favorite podcasts, and the like!
I welcome comments and feedback anytime. Just not spam. Spam is some serious Dukkha!
- As you might guess, DukkhaGirl does NOT fit into this category.
- Though my niece once pointed out, when I was told this, that I smiled about 50% more than then average human every day.
- Though I’d call myself, to quote Richard Dawkins, a “tooth fairy agnostic.”