“We have a tendency to identify with our limitations.” Gen Kelsang Suma, Jampa Ling Kadampa Buddhist Centre.
What a powerful and true statement spoken by one of the teachers at the Buddhist Centre in my hometown. I can definitely relate to this statement as I, for many years, have been identifying as a paramedic…who can’t be on the road anymore. Rather than simply sharing that I am a paramedic (because technically I still am), for a very long time I felt the need to add my limitation to the description of what I do. Many people have challenged me on this and have shared that they feel that I don’t need to identify as such because I still help people on many levels and that I am a paramedic at heart forever, and I appreciate these people and their kindness very much. But how can I change this opinion of myself permanently? How can I change my description of what I do to something new and positive like, an advocate for mental health and public speaker, and be ok with that? Well I learned the answer to this question at the Buddhist Centre too.
“Our life IS the path to enlightenment.” Gen Kelsang Suma, Jampa Ling Kadampa Buddhist Centre.
Rather than embarking on a path of self-pity because I’m, “not on the road anymore” as a paramedic, I need to be mindful that the path I am on, and have already travelled down, IS the path I NEED to be on in order to achieve the best version of me, a.k.a. enlightenment. Sure, the cultivation of new abilities and experiences takes time, but the path that is required to do so doesn’t need to seem like a life-sentence of horror and pain. Ok, let’s face it, we all have experienced a painful path in some way, but re-travelling it over and over with the high beams shining on the limitations it has caused us will only make us veer off the road to recovery and growth. When I am able to enjoy where I am on the path right now, today, I will be at ease with any part of my past.
”What a different day that could become”, Gen Kelsang Suma, Jampa Ling Kadampa Buddhist Centre.
Delighting in the opportunities that present themselves along our life-path can change our outlook as to what is actually a limitation at all. If I saw PTSD as the pathway to the many beautiful and amazing experiences I have had since being diagnosed, I wouldn’t be angry at PTSD anymore. If I simply lived in the moment and soaked up the sunshine of a day without depression, I wouldn’t need to feel loss of my career anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t wish PTSD on my worst enemy – what I do wish for is that everyone had the ability to reframe painful experiences from hopeless disasters, to seeds of possible growth. Changing our perspective sure can change our entire day.
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