The other day I was standing in the kitchen, thinking about how miserable I am. Miserable is perhaps an overstatement, but I'm definitely not as symptom-free as I once was. Actually, I'm not even sure if it's fair to categorize my various ailments as symptoms of cancer. I seem to have acid reflux, which means that I walk around feeling anywhere from vaguely to extremely indigested much of the time. Then there's my left vocal cord, which isn't working for who-knows-what reason. So I definitely have my share of symptoms, but symptoms of what I'm not exactly sure.
Anyway, back to the kitchen. On this particular day, I happened to look up from my usual grimace, and my gaze fell upon a magnet on our fridge. It's a picture of Laughing Buddha.
Our Buddha doesn't look exactly like this, but you get the idea. I've seen that magnet hundreds of times, but this time it spoke to me, and said, "You know, Gina, you could just as easily be laughing." I could be laughing. I began to wonder if my mopey attitude was a matter of choice. Was this the attitude that I thought I should have? The attitude of the cancer patient? Of the acid reflux sufferer? Of the person with a malfunctioning vocal cord?
It is possible. I could be laughing. And, to be fair to the Buddha and to myself, I often am. But there's something scary about letting go of the mope factor - about laughing while suffering. I'm not sure what that's about. If I'm fine with how I am, am I no longer striving to get better? Of course I am. Will others no longer care for me or about me? Of course they will.
Last week I was trying to explain to my students how meditation is not thought, and that we try to let go of thinking when we meditate. A student raised his hand, and with a concerned look on his face asked, "But what will happen to my thoughts?" I assured him that he would not lose his thoughts, at least not the ones that matter. Perhaps that's my fear of embracing the Laughing Buddha - but what about my cancer? My acid reflux? My vocal cord? Of course I know the answer. They will all still be here, at least for the time being. So now let's see if I can laugh in their presence.