By Webb Batchelor I have been very bitter for many years of my life because of serious disappointments and difficulties. For almost 60 years, it has seemed that pain, fear, and sorrow will go on forever. Yesterday I was in a wretched, miserable state of mind. I saw no escape, no relief, and what felt like "eternal damnation." My only hope was to embark on mindful walking, as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh. Fortunately I had done it many times before, so it was easy. After 45 minutes, I began to feel some peace and joy. Over and over again, Thich Nhat Hanh's guidelines have worked for me like a happiness pill when I feel depressed, scared, or angry. I am wise enough to know that beer drinking only makes my life worse, and I have not drunk for ten years. Instead of buying a 12-pack of beer when I feel horrible, all I need to do is get a Thich Nhat Hanh book and follow the easy instructions! When I feel doomed to hell, I have to be attracted into doing what is good. Forcing myself just doesn't work.
When I gave up beer drinking because it was obvious it was destroying me, immediately I saw AA as a pleasant substitute. I suspect that I saw the pleasant substitute first, then quit drinking. Soon I discovered books and developed a growing interest in Buddhism, until I became really hooked, and now Buddha has another tired old fish in his net.
Everyone has the right to believe that, in a miserable night, dawn will inevitably come, and can come at any time. Misery and despair are caused by confusion, so we need calmness to clear up the confusion and see properly. If we are told by someone with wisdom, "Hey, pal, it's going to be all right," or "God will bring you through all this to the Promised Land of sunshine in your soul," then we can relax and be attracted to good action. It's like being told that the train we are on is taking us to a good place. Then we can breathe a sigh of relief and be mindful of the scenery passing by. When I first came across Thich Nhat Hanh's books, I knew that I had found someone who really understood. Through his teachings, I have realized that many people have it harder than I do, so I can turn my attention to whatever can be accomplished that would benefit those most in need. I want to be a friend to anyone who wants me as a friend. I have realized that life is worth living.
Jesus, Buddha, and other great teachers certainly have greater love, understanding, and clarity than I, so in spite of the doubts in my raving mind, if they tell a dying man that there is good news for everyone, I will believe them.
Webb Batchelor lives with his wife in Keister, Minnesota. He has been sober for the last ten years.