Last week, against a backdrop of horror and despair generated by the apparently premeditated shooting of RCMP officers in a nearby city, I noticed that I was able to feel happy. I was digging in the dirt, moving weeds out and seedlings into a little plot for which I have taken responsibility. I felt the sun hot on my skin, the work and fatigue warming my muscles, the damp cool earth soiling my fingers. I saw the little plants going into the ground, smelled the mulch as I spread it over the bed, felt my own sweat sliding down my back. I felt myself entirely alive, breathing, sweating, moving, thinking and aware, always aware, of the backdrop of loss and pain and suffering of the young families who lost their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons. I felt happy.
It might seem paradoxical or just plain wrong to be so aware of my own happiness, my own contentment in the moment in the garden, with so much else happening alongside. Rather than insensitivity, I think it is being exquisitely sensitized that allows us to feel deeply into our own lives. Instead of taking on those garden tasks as jobs that had to be done, interruptions in my train of thought, I experienced them differently. I felt fortunate to be able to work in the garden, with my partner nearby, safe and healthy. I was grateful to have mundane chores to complete. I was delighted to have the strength to do the work, and the senses to take in the experience. The shootings in Moncton brought me to the edge of awareness of the fragility of life, the temporary nature of our existence in this world, the sense of impermanence. That edge allowed me to go deeply into my experience of physical well-being. Here I am, world, me, breathing and sweating and moving and digging in the dirt. Here I am, planting flowers for a future that may not even happen. And I can feel my own good feelings doing that, even though at the same time I am aware of my sorrow on behalf of others and the horror of the event itself.
And in the moment of awareness of happiness, I felt it slide out of my experience as other feelings, thoughts, and sensations took its place. I remember wondering if perhaps I “should” be feeling sad or angry or horrified, but also remembering that I don’t have control over that. I am sad, angry and horrified, and also, for that moment, I was brilliantly, exquisitely happy.
May you experience the fullness of your feelings just as they are, today, tomorrow and onward.