On Mindful Monday, my readers and I practice the art of pausing, TRYING to be still, or considering, ever so briefly, the big picture. We’re hoping this soul time will provide enough peace of mind to get us through the week!
I sometimes think that the kids who had it hard growing up have a substantial advantage over the brats who were fed from a silver spoon when it comes to handling problems that they will encounter in their lives.
Take my friend, Vickie.
When she was two, she was running with a glass ornament in her hand. She fell, the ornament shattered, and the glass cut out her right eye.
She was never the same.
Wearing an eye-patch through her grade school, adolescence, and high school years, she was mocked by classmates, called a monster, and treated terribly. She felt ugly and unlovable, so she turned to food to comfort her and gained weight.
One day a man approached her and told her he could fix the eye … give her a glass eye that perfectly matched the other one. She couldn’t believe her luck! From that hour on, she has told me numerous times, she never really had a bad day. Because she always compares her current trials and tribulations to the days of the eye-patch, and she’ll take the news problems hands down.
“Think of it this way,” she told me the other day. “If you begin your day with the simple motto, ‘Life is crap,’ then it can only get better from there!”
This is, in fact, the First Noble Truth of Buddhism: “Life is suffering.” To be human is to experience pain.
In his book, “Eastern Wisdom for Western Minds,” Victor Parachin tells of a great tale about an old farmer and the Buddha. He writes:
An old farmer went to the Buddha seeking help for his problems. First, he had professional problems. In his part of the world, farming was extremely difficult and his work completely vulnerable to weather. Even though he loved his wife, there were certain things about her he wanted to change. Similarly, he loved his children, but they weren’t evolving the way he had hoped and anticipated. Listening carefully as the man explained his frustrations with life, the Buddha responded, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.”
“What do you mean?” questioned the farmer. “You’re a highly regarded great teacher who has insight into all of life’s problems.”
“All human beings have eighty-three problems,” the Buddha explained. “A few problems may go away, but soon enough others will arise. So we’ll always have eighty-three problems.”
The farmer, both indignant and frustrated, asked, “So what good is all of your teaching?”
To which the Buddha replied, “My teaching can’t help with the eighty-three problems, but perhaps it can help with the eighty-fourth problem.”
“What’s that?” the farmer asked with great curiosity.
“The eighty-fourth problem is that we don’t want to have any problems.”
Parachin goes on to explain that even the most spiritual among us have problems. He writes:
Oddly, the illusion that life should be free of suffering is often heightened in those who pursue spiritual practices, because they erroneously believe that all problems will disappear if one is “spiritual” enough. Thinking the right way, speaking the right way, acting the right way–none of these can provide immunity to problems, although these practices can prevent many issues and minimize the fallout. What spiritual practice can do is help us deal with those matters in a calmer, more balanced way. The Buddha is right: Because we live in an imperfect, messy world, we will always have “eighty-three” problems. Expecting not to have problems is one of our great illusions about life. If he were here today, the Buddha might very well say: “Get real. Wake up. Abandon the illusions about how life should be and face life as it really is.”
So, even though it sounds negative to start off your day with “life is crap,” it can actually help you deal with reality in all of its rudeness and inconvenience. It means starting the day with an understanding of the First Noble Truth. And, just like Vickie said, it can only get better from there!