Change is difficult. Complaining is easy

Everything is different now. Absolutely. Impermanence teaches us that this will always be the case. While many cultures and civilizations have understood this for decades and probably even centuries, if not longer, it seems that here in the United States we are coming to a collective recognition: our lives and our world are not the same. , and they will not be the same. Many of us have learned that grief is common. That we are all crying for something. And we don’t cry the same things, and we don’t cry the same way. This awareness can lead us to a place of strength, or it can lead to empty complaints.

As I navigate impermanence with my friends and colleagues, I find myself contemplating a new mantra: “Change is difficult. Complaining is easy.” This is meant to be an observation, not a criticism. This is to remind myself (and others) that we have options. In this case, the easy answer is definitely not the best answer. Complaining is like the junk food we eat when we’re hungry, it’s a quick but temporary fix for lack of food. Fast food is full of sugar, starch and empty calories; complaining is full of attachment and aversion. At the time, it may feel good, but it only makes the pain worse.

According to Merriam-Webster, to be disappointed is to be defeated in expectation or hope. To complain is to express grief, pain or displeasure. Complaining can be seen as a natural extension of disappointment. You know that disappointment comes from attachment. In a practice where we are advised to sit with our feelings, notice them, and seek not to pass judgment on those feelings, comparing complaint to fast food seems very critical. It’s not wrong to feel grief, pain, or discontent. And it is not wrong to express these feelings. In fact, it helps us recognize and remember the cause of our suffering.

At this point, you may be thinking, “Aren’t you complaining about complaining? ” You are not wrong. I have my own work to do to extend compassion to people I consider to be chronic complainers. Yes, I also notice the judgment in the use of the label “chronic complainers”. Complaining is easy. The challenge with complaining, just like with fast food, is that it pushes you to accept unhealthy habits and lifestyle. Check out the 2004 documentary super size me to learn more about the result of eating fast food meals all day every day for a month. The more fries you eat, the more you want. The more time you spend complaining, the more you train your mind to focus on the negative. And the more you will look for disappointment.

When you feel pain or discontent, don’t force it to go away. And when you need to express your pain or displeasure, do so. How much is too much to complain? What do I mean when I say complaining is easy? If you find your thoughts are riddled with criticism (from yourself or others), or your discussions focus on all your disappointments and all the things you dislike, believe me, you are complaining too much. If your first reaction is to criticize a person, place, or situation, you are complaining too much. If this is true for you, don’t beat yourself up. Remember self-compassion and, if needed, time spent with a trusted teacher or therapist.

When I say “change is hard, complaining is easy”, I mean it’s easy to ignore the opportunity that impermanence has brought you. You can voice the complaint and move on, or you can do the deeper, harder work of really sitting down with the source of your unhappiness. The first part of the “mantra” has two meanings:

1. Change is difficult for most of us to accept;

2. It’s hard to do the work of changing your habit of empty complaining into one of developing nonattachment.

What can you do to take advantage of this growth opportunity? Notice what causes you to feel disappointment. You can do it while you meditate, and you can do it as you go about your day. You might find logging useful here. In the beginning, it is easier to start with smaller problems. You decide which is a smaller problem. Maybe you’re feeling sad because your favorite cafe has closed. What’s behind this sadness? Why was this your favorite coffee shop and what does it mean to close, besides having to buy coffee elsewhere? By digging deeper into the source of your sadness and what it really represents, you can identify your attachment or aversion. Eventually, you might learn that what you’re reacting to is the fact that you’re going to miss sitting down and spending time with your friends. Or maybe their lavender latte helped you feel close to your late mother.

When you first hear that the cafe has closed, you’ll probably express your disappointment. You will complain. Most of us need a time gap between experiencing unhappiness or grief and accepting our unhappiness or grief. Allow yourself to feel your sadness or disappointment. This gap helps you process what you are feeling. While you’re in the gap, be aware of how often you complain and your intentions.

Ultimately, our goal is to close the gap. To be able to move more quickly from sadness to acceptance. You may continue to feel sadness as you move toward acceptance. And how to reduce the gap? Using your practice to develop equanimity. Yes, you are back to meditation and awareness and the teachings of the Buddha.

Someone who can be equanimous all the time has given up attachment and aversion, will not be disappointed and have no reason or inclination to complain. For the rest of us (certainly me), there is compassion. ‘Cause some days we’ll let go, we’ll have that fry, we’ll utter that hollow complaint.

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