“The contradictory is the criterion of the real,” he wrote simone Weil, “My admired Simone Weil”, Pablo d’Ors calls her in the moving epilogue that culminates his latest published book, light biography (Gutenberg Galaxy, 2021). It was the result, as he relates in those final pages, of a dark moment in which he felt very unhappy. “More than that: he was experiencing shame and confusion before myself.” The contradiction was flagrant (The adjective is his): his books were translated and sold, the network of meditators he directed grew, as did the readers who wrote to him to express their affection and admiration… “I hid crying in my room,” he admits. And he also acknowledges that he sank into a depression—after writing a book called Enthusiasm—. And he went out. He went out doing the same thing he used to do: meditate, to write. «You have to stay at night, trust and continue working. This is the only way the day opens (…). To be successful—today I know it—is to persevere in failure.
“The contradictory is the criterion of the real”, again, like a mantra, the phrase of the philosopher Simone Weill. If we are interested in emotional well-being, if we ask questions and go after it, it is because, too often, we are the fodder of discomfort. It is what boils, what reverberates and stirs. It is the well-known opposite of emotional well-being, the one that is longed for when it is lost, but that when it is possessed it is hardly enjoyed or valued. That so elusive, elusive, that is well-being. How to catch it? How to define it? Where to find it? We talked about all these issues with the successful writer, the meditator, the priest Pablo d’Ors. He, who inhabited the shadows and found and wrote about the light, will he know how to define it? That’s where this conversation starts.
—What is it for you or how would you define “emotional well-being”?
—I would prefer to talk about physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, so that the vision is more holistic or comprehensive. Emotions should obviously not be repressed. But neither should they be taken out without further ado, under penalty of sowing the patio with corpses. It is about looking at them and going through them, to put it briefly: a process that is not normally taught.
-In light biography he writes: “We cannot meditate – to experience our deep self – and pretend that our life does not fall apart”, which brings very bad news for those who understand meditation in utilitarian terms: “if I do this, I will feel better” . Can you explain why it is wrong to think in those terms?
—Meditation by itself does not fix anyone’s life, just as the couple does not fix anyone’s life either. Meditation and couple, to continue with this correlation, are means to achieve an end, but without love, without breathing spirit into that meditation or that relationship there is nothing to do. Meditation is not just a therapy, it is a mystic. Not only does it help to reconcile the psychophysical dimension, but it opens to the transcendent, to the sacred background that exists in every human being.
—How are they related or where do they touch then –if at some point– meditation and emotional well-being?
—Where the emotional or psychological work ends, the spiritual begins. If the psychological is not sanitized, it is easy for the spiritual to become a cover. You don’t meditate to feel good, but to find yourself, and in that process you find many things that you don’t like and that don’t make you have a good time. Meditation is for soul adventurers.
—Speaking of emotional well-being in personal terms, the final text of your latest book is very brave of you, where you recount that you went into depression… and came out. Do you believe that one is responsible for their own emotional well-being? How can one help oneself, how can – if they can – help others?
—We are responsible for almost everything. If war breaks out in Ukraine, I must ask myself: where have I gone wrong? That question is always more interesting and necessary than wondering where politicians or whoever they are have failed. If there were peace in the hearts of the whole world, there simply would not be wars. We live what corresponds to us, because we have to learn that lesson. If it were already learned, we would not live it. Many tell me that I am very sincere. It surprises me that they admire that, because sincerity is the minimum value for me. The important thing is to be authentic, supportive, compassionate, wise…
—Leaving the individual, do you think it is possible to transfer the term “emotional well-being” to a community, a society or a time? If so, how would you describe or qualify the emotional well-being of our time?
—Our age is obsessed with emotional well-being. But, just as we cannot love others if we do not love ourselves, we cannot love ourselves if we do not love others. They are communicating vessels. It is the same love that we pour out on others that we pour out on ourselves. I see little love: I see more individualism and frenzied altruism.
—He is quite belligerent with well-being (just without the “emotional” part). In biography of silence describes him as the enemy to beat, the main idol. I copy: «Connecting with one’s own pain and with the pain of the world is the only demonstrable way to overthrow the main idol, which is none other than well-being». Why? Would emotional well-being also be a kind of selfish parapet, perhaps reassuring, but one that disconnects from the world?
—Indeed, well-being is a temptation. Everything healthy is uncomfortable. If we do not leave our comfort zone, that is, our well-being, we will not grow as people and the spiritual path will simply be unfeasible. More than being well, our goal should aim to be what we are: that is what will make us really well, even if there are many moments along the way that will not be pleasant at all.
—Pain does seem useful to him and he goes so far as to say that it is our main teacher. Why this exaltation? Doesn’t this have a masochistic point? What would you say to those who think otherwise, that nothing is learned from pain?
—Our resistance to suffering is resistance to life. As soon as we stop resisting, we start living and suffering stops having that devastating poison that characterizes it. Any serious path, that of athletes, that of ascetics, that of true artists and writers, entails a discipline that, like it or not, affects the body painfully. We call masochism what it is, simply ‒and it doesn’t seem so simple‒, capacity for sacrifice. There are times when surrendering hurts, not everything is so soft as many would like.