I came across the title quotation–“reality is unforgivingly complex”–reading Anne Lamott’s bestselling book, Bird by Bird. This observation will be the basis for my reflections today. What does she mean by this? As a shorthand, we’ll think of reality as the things that happen to us–weather, accidents, medical events, how dinner turns out.

I think we’d like things to be simpler, clean-cut, black and white, yet how often are things actually so? We lump things into categories for efficiency, yet the things we lump are unique. We overlook the differences for the sake of simplicity. Maybe the differences don’t matter, but in some cases–especially when it comes to our relationships and emotions–it does matter.

Whatever experience you are having right now is one that you’ve never had before. Perhaps you’ve had a similar one, but not this exact one. Can you find the singular aspects of what this moment provides?

Mindfulness helps us to see that reality is complex, and unforgvingly so. Things happen that we don’t want to happen, we make mistakes, we lose things dear to us. The world is a mess, environmentally, politically, and economically. Polticians reduce the complexity to sound bytes. Something important gets lost in the process.

Reality is unforgiving because it does not care about us. Of course, we are part of reality, it does not stand outside of us. We participate in the unfolding of reality. Life is a mix of randomness and intention. Mindfulness will help us to have more intention and less randomness (or at least randomness that can be averted through thoughtful action). When reality intrudes itself upon us without compunction, mindfulness will help us to cope with the consequences of this moment.

Mindfulness can help us to be okay, no matter what is happening, no matter how “unforgivingly complex” reality might be.

More from Beliefnet and our partners
previous posts

An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]

Good things come in small packages especially when it is The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy edited by the poet John Brehm and published by Wisdom. Wisdom has a habit of producing beautifully crafted books, packed with, well, wisdom! By way of disclosure, two of these books are mine (108 Metaphors for Mindfulness and […]

A surfer and a shrink, sounds like the start of a joke … walk into a bar … . What do they talk about? Turns out the surfer dude is an expert on fear, has even written a book about it and the shrink is a crack snowboarder. They’ve got a lot to talk about. […]

Stephen Batchelor: Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World contains twenty-five years of his writing. You may be familiar with some of these articles from his contributions to Tricycle and I recently enjoyed reading his article arguing for a Buddhism 2.0 in a Buddhist academic journal. This book contains three new contributions, making the book […]