Seventh Day – Departure to the unknown

by Anna


Farewells started early at 7am with one of my room mates and carried on with the other three hours later. I had caught up with taking some photos during the morning and surprisingly it felt like the most relaxing day of all. I got close to tears when the last of my room mates left but still the gates wouldn’t open. The longed for emotional release didn’t happen.

I wondered whether my own practice, however little and sporadic it might have been, since my last stay at Plum Village, had made more of a difference than I realised, meaning that I was already much calmer and more present than I had been during my first visit, despite my recent stressful experience. I also wonder whether this means that I will be able to re-integrate quicker back into the “real world” compared to the last time when I had difficulties to adjust.

Then thing is that we don’t always realise how deep we are into something – be it stress or relaxation. We simply carry on living. The only time we really notice how deep we have gone is when we experience the opposite. That’s how we measure success or failure. So without the bad we won’t know how good we are and equally we won’t know how bad we have got until we feel good again.

And even though I feel rather bad for having been so critical during my stay at Plum Village, I know that it was important for me to recognize and experience those emotions to be able to process them, so I would be ready to deal with them back in the “real world”. And where better to deal with such emotions than in the humbling embrace of a Buddhist community in the heart of Plum Village.

So forgive me if my past few posts made you feel uncomfortable but the point I’m trying to make is how stress and anxieties can impact on your life, how they literally suck the joy out of it and leave you in a bleak twilight state that can be very difficult to deal with. So if reading those posts made you uncomfortable, may I ask you to put yourself into the position of someone who struggles with day to day activities and try to understand that the discomfort you feel while reading is the same discomfort they feel most days while carrying on with their lives, just much worse. And it is not just a grumpy person or someone who’s having a bad day!

I will continue to write from the heart, because that’s what this blog is all about, even though it might not be the most uplifting of places at the moment. And what I find hardest is the fact that not many people are prepared to accept that not everyone can be cheered up with a joke or a cup of tea, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop trying. These people need you to just be there for them and accept them the way they are without judgement or overwhelming advice. Just have an open heart and listen deeply. Increasingly more people experience stress and anxieties, so there might be a time when you may need support yourself and I bet that those who previously struggled will be there to return the favour because they understand what it is like.

So many people with such issues hide because they don’t want to be a burden or a nuisance, they don’t want to ruin their friends’ day, and they avoid contact because the dreaded questions of “how are you” isn’t an easy one to answer. So they either hide behind that smile while silently writhing in pain inside or they might say how they really feel and expose themselves to the unpredictable reaction of others. I myself didn’t fully understand how it feels until I experienced it myself. And I want to make others aware of it, to broaden their horizon, to create more acceptance and understanding and most importantly to come to terms with it myself. I hope to keep your company for a little while longer, for hope is all I have.