Serenity in an Age of Anxiety


picket-fences from Pixabay            When Stephanie* heard loud music and children yelling, she asked her husband if the neighbors were having a party at their pool. “It is a block party,” Alan replied without looking up from him iPad, “ but Jason said it was just for families with kids.”


Stephanie frowned.  That meant they were the only people on the street not invited. Having kids seemed to be the entree ticket to social events where they lived. She felt a familiar hurt from not be included. She and Alan went out of their way to be friendly. She thought about the neighbor’s fluctuating moods and decided something was wrong with him. Maybe he had bipolar disorder.


Stephanie wants to dislike Jason because her neighbor was unkind. Further, she will follow the advice of therapists and not bother with people who don’t want to be with her. She will surround herself with uplifting people and weed out the irritating. While this is reasonable advice, it misses an important element. Jason may or may not be in her life but her disdain for him remains. That disdain poisons her, no matter what he has done.


An old Buddhist parable goes like this: Two monks are walking in the forest when they come upon a woman at the edge of a river. “I can’t get to the other side,” she cries and one of the monks tells her to climb on his back and he will carry her across. She hops on his back. A few minutes later they arrive safely on the bank, she thanks him and they all continue on their way.


Several hours pass and one monk senses the other is upset. “What disturbs your peace, brother?” he asks.


“We have taken vows not to touch women and you carried that woman,” he accused.


“It is true, I carried her across the river,” the first monk replied, “but I left her there. You carry her still.”


Jason was thoughtless but he has long forgotten the social snub. Stephanie carries it still. It is in her best interest to learn to love Jason. Not his actions or personality. She never has to have a glass of wine with him or spend an evening in his company. She may even need to call the police if the party gets out of hand. She can do what she has to do without disrupting her peace of mind but first she must have peace of mind and control her irritation.


Stephanie has forgotten that she and Jason share the same nature, which is love. She forgot she does not need Jason to confirm she is love or lovable. Love is who she is whether he is kissing her feet or throwing stink bombs over the fence. Her happiness  and peace of mind depends on her connection to herself, not his or anybody else’s actions. It is easier to hate when someone hurts you but hate keeps the hurt coming.

Post 28

  • All names are changed.


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