On a day when I return home from work early, pull down the blinds and crawl into bed, on a day when the rules of behaviour are up for grabs, when this illness is hanging in the air like a raised fist, when I waste precious energy lamenting my loss of direction and purpose (as a woman with a properly paid job), when I am dangerously close to slipping into the comfortable maelstrom of self-pity where everything is to blame, I remember a TED talk I watched years ago where Wade Davis described meeting a Tibetan nun who had spent 55 years in silent retreat on the day the door of her single room was opened once again:
. . . we began a pilgrimage to a curious destination . . . And the destination was a single room in a nunnery, where a woman had gone into lifelong retreat 55 years before. And en route, we took darshan from Rinpoche, and he sat with us and told us about the Four Noble Truths, the essence of the Buddhist path. All life is suffering. That doesn't mean all life is negative. It means things happen. The cause of suffering is ignorance. By that, the Buddha did not mean stupidity; he meant clinging to the illusion that life is static and predictable. The third noble truth said that ignorance can be overcome. And the fourth and most important, of course, was the delineation of a contemplative practice that not only had the possibility of a transformation of the human heart, but had 2,500 years of empirical evidence that such a transformation was a certainty.
. . . And so, when this door opened onto the face of a woman who had not been out of that room in 55 years, you did not see a mad woman. You saw a woman who was more clear than a pool of water in a mountain stream. And of course, this is what the Tibetan monks told us. They said, at one point, you know, we don't really believe you went to the moon, but you did. You may not believe that we achieve enlightenment in one lifetime, but we do.
Reader, I feel better already.