I Don’t Want My Dukkha Here

This story might be easier to write, might be simpler to read and digest, had I been writing all along about our experience living for a year in France. Had I written about the early stages of discovery, about the long settling into a different sort of Zen life (as I referred to it in my mind), then giving words to my current state might come more naturally.

But these last few days—with only weeks left before we leave what has become our home—have been filled with a question.

When does discovery become death?

We went for a hike as a family today, up a steep trail in the forest behind the town of Yzeron. The shade of the trees was welcome on this humid day. The kids gathered sticks to walk with, and Jessica and I pointed out flowers along the path. We came through clearings that held a sense of energy and mystery, and into a field of wheat that sloped down into the farthest distance, our home somewhere in between where we stood and the impossibly far-off horizon.


I yearned for a feeling of wonder and newness, and it seemed to be just within reach—yet was somehow wrapped in discontent. Instead of the sense of discovery I expected, there was the death of a sense of ease, an intruding sadness of a bitter goodbye.

Is this another experience of the home-leaving practice of Zen?

If it is, I don’t care for it.

It’s quite different than leaving for retreat. But then, of course, I always had the sense I would be coming back. In what way was I truly leaving? Was I—in the Zen sense—having my cake and eating, too?

When we first arrived in France, everything was new. The town, our home, the language, the kids’ school, the bus routes into the city. The light, the birdsong, the scents in the air. Each morning’s run was a new discovery, each visit to the marché, each conversation was an exploration. Each season was a chance to wonder what it would bring in this new home of ours.

After a time, of course, things became familiar—but the sense of discovery persisted in the act of settling. We were becoming part of a new fabric, and a simpler (if not always simple, being so far from what was familiar) life than what we had left aided the sense of discovery even after novelty receded from the surface. For most of eleven months, this carried me and contended me.

And then, recently, almost suddenly, it has changed. Things don’t feel as they should. Encountering a new place or a new word or tradition or story feels not like discovery, but like loss, becoming sadness at what we must soon leave behind. The same experience, instead of being embodied with a sense of discovery, feels somehow diminished. Somehow thinner.

Why should a sense of losing something diminish my ability to revel in its discovery?

I can hear the words of my teachers, those alive and from centuries of lineage. There are no shoulds, especially in how we feel. And this sense of loss, this discomforting, is no surprise. This is the life of a human being and the suffering that comes with change. This is dukkha. I try to let it come. I can’t change it, after all.

But still. I don’t want my dukkha here.

After our walk, we came home and planted flowers in the small raised beds, the ones up against the stone wall with terra-cotta shingles. We pulled weeds from the ground around the beds and smoothed the gravel.


9 thoughts on “I Don’t Want My Dukkha Here

  1. Arti Jain

    My son, all of 18, left for a summer job this morning. I won’t see him for 8 weeks and even when he’s back, he’ll be packing up to go to University. So, this morning, nursing my aching heart at the thought of this closing of one chapter (both children grown and my nest empty), I read your words.
    The interim that I find myself in—this longing to hold on to that which was the bliss of parenthood– and the future of a reunion with almost adult children who reflect their own light into a world they’re eager to explore, I read your words and smile at our shared human longings and reunions.
    Wishing you peaceful journeys.
    Thank you for your words. Oddly for me, they’ve been a balm of sorts.

    1. bussokuseki Post author

      I think I might say the same thing, Arti, your story is a bit of a balm. Sometimes the longing feels very lonely, but of course we all share it. Wishing you a wonderful summer and reunion with your son when it is time! Be well~

  2. pujakins

    Yes, you say it well and very Zen too. The Sufi attitude is similar in some ways–Murshid Sam who studied both Zen and Sufism up until he chose to follow Sufism exclusively saw the truth in both. The Zen approach speaks to a calm that is a reflection of the Buddhist ideal, the Sufi approach would be to experience the ecstasy of parting from the beloved, only to recognize it in the next experience. It’s a matter of temperament, I think. Wishing you every joy, Tasha

    1. bussokuseki Post author

      Ah, wonderful to hear your voice here … My experience of Zen is very much to be welcoming of the discontent—and than also of the discontent with the discontent; an embrace of the feelings that arise, rather than a retreat. Difficult and effortless all at once… I hope you are well, Tasha, blessings!

  3. josna

    What can I say? Leave-taking is sad; but savor the feeling. And remember, a place where you stay for a short time is one that you are bound to look on through rose-colored glasses. It may also be a place settled locals may long to escape.Are your old home and your old life waiting for you when you return? Returning will make them new, and will allow you to see them anew, “through travelled eyes” (as Salman Rushdie has put it).
    Sounds as if you and your family have had a very interesting and enriching year. I hope you wil reflect on it later on. It will stay with you, returning to you again and again in memory as something–a smell, a breeze, a comparison–evokes that other place that was home too, for a time.
    Wishing you a safe and smooth journey home.

    1. bussokuseki Post author

      The rain today is helping me to savor the sadness. I appreciate your kind words, josna, thank you for reading and taking the time to share. Be well~

  4. brenda

    Mozart: Clarinet Concerto In A, K 622…as the sound of a clarinet begins, the knowing that this concerto will end in 7 minutes and 3 seconds…dukkha, deafens me in 7 minutes.


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