Understanding Our Stories

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you
don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not
doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or
less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have
problems with our friends or family, we blame the other
person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will
grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive
effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason
and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no
reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you
understand, and you show that you understand, you can
love, and the situation will change”

― Thích Nhất Hạnh

There are a lot of things about myself that I would like to change.  My eating habits, my organizational habits, my tendency to put things off, my fear of failure.  I have been going about the process with the idea that I just need more self control, or I just need more grit, or a commitment, or a magic word, or a rubber band around my wrist that I can snap every time I reach for a brownie.  And while these can be good things, they aren’t really working for me.  In fact, they never have.  Why then, would I continue to use methods that do not work?  Because I believe they work.  I have written them into my story.

From the moment we are born, we are writing a story, the story of our perception of reality.  This story covers every aspect of our lives, and answers questions such as “Can people be trusted?”  “Am I worth loving?”  “What is Truth?”  “What is Justice?” or “What will it take to make me happy?”  Most of the important questions are answered before we even know we are asking them.  Each of us has written a unique story, and none of them are perfect reflections of reality.

In the parable of The Blind Men and the Elephant, each man experiences a different part of the elephant, and each man comes away with a different idea of what the elephant is, and what it’s for.  Each man possesses the same amount of truth regarding the elephant, but what they have to gain from each other is perspective.  So it is with our stories.  None is any more or less true than the other.  We do not need to seek truth from others, we have it within ourselves, but what we do need to seek is perspective.  With understanding, and without judgement, there is much that we can learn from our fellow humans, about life, and about ourselves.

But other people are not the only ones who need our understanding.  We need to stop judging and blaming ourselves.  There is a reason for our behavior, and if our behavior needs to change, it is easier done with love and understanding than with any amount of self control.

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A Lasting Legacy

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Billions of people have tried, or are trying, to make a lasting legacy.  Many humans struggle with the idea that all too soon they will be dead, and eventually forgotten.  No matter how generous you are, no matter how heroic, no matter how many libraries you name after yourself, what office you h0ld, or how many records you break:  You will be forgotten.  After 100, 1000, or 10,000 years your name, your face, your life, will be wiped from history.

Forgotten but not Gone

While the details of your life will fade into obscurity, you will by no means be gone (Where would you go?).  Going on all around us is a constant exchange.  We breathe in the air taking in oxygen.  We breathe out releasing carbon dioxide.  Rain falls to the earth, enters the soil, and is taken up by the roots of a tree.  The tree uses the water, the carbon dioxide, and energy from the sun to create fruit.  We then eat the fruit, and its digestion is aided by trillions of micro-organisms living inside of us.  Nothing is stagnant.  Nothing stays still.  Matter and energy are constantly changing shape, changing hands, changing form, mixing, and melding.  This process continues after we die, the only difference is that there is no longer an entity that is notably and recognizably ‘you.’

Our bodies leftovers, however, will not be the only part of us to remain.  Every breath we take, every action, every thought, and every word, has an impact.  Each day we shape and change the world around us.  We all do, in fact, leave a legacy.  The legacy is not one that can be easily traced, nor one that is easily perceived by our fellowman.  But the earth knows.  and the earth will never forget.

So, if you want to leave a lasting legacy, be mindful of your actions.  Live each day with purpose, and take time to recognize your connection with every creature on this planet.  Headstones will eventually crumble, but the earth, and her creatures, will be around for some time.

Silencing Fear

I often wonder, whether or not I am headed in the right direction.  I seem to be wandering around aimlessly.  Hopelessly lost in a society that is quick to judge, quick to blame, and deathly afraid of change.  I get inspired, I feel the fire burning in my soul, and I set off to change the world, but when the path gets rocky, I start to worry, and run back to that increasingly familiar place.  A stagnant place, of strange comfort.  Then, feeling the shame of failure, I commence to wallow in the mire of self pity.  Fear keeps me grounded in this place.  What will people think if I try and fail?  What if I lose everything?  What If I am wrong?  But what if I could live without fear?

Fear Is Natural

Fear is good.  Fear is helpful.  Fear is something that all humans have.  Without fear, the human race would have been drowned, eaten, trampled, or dashed to pieces before we had a chance to become a dominating force on this planet.  Fear is not the enemy, and attempting to live without it will only lead to frustration.

If Not Fear, Then What is the problem?

If you are sleeping, and your house becomes engulfed in flames, your smoke alarm will go off.  If you are cooking, and spill some grease on the range, it might also go off.  In the first situation, you would be wise to grab your cat, run outside, and try to get some help.  However, you would not react the same way in the second situation, even though the same alarm is going off.  You would silence the alarm, clean up your mess, and move on with your day.

Fear is like a smoke alarm.  It is programmed to go off in every situation that has the potential to cause death, dismemberment, loss, or even discomfort.  Sometimes it requires immediate action on our part, but sometimes we simply need to acknowledge the fear, release it, and press forward.  Inappropriate reactions to fear, not fear itself, is what causes so many of our problems

Fear, and our other emotions, are not meant to be navigators on our journey through life.  We need to remain awake, aware, and in the driver’s seat, taking fear and our other emotions into account, but not allowing them to become a dominating and controlling force.

Drink Your Tea Slowly…

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There are many who find comfort in the quasi-biblical cliche “This too shall pass.”  It gives the idea that whatever situations you fall into, whatever circumstances are troubling you, they will eventually (at some undetermined point in the future) resolve themselves, or cease to exist.

Unemployed?  This too shall pass.  Relationship problems?  This too shall pass.  Caught in traffic?  Stub your toe?  Working at a job you can’t stand spending most of your time fantasizing about living your passion?  This too shall pass.

Unfortunately, however, these events make up your very real and very short life, and they will (All too quickly, perhaps sooner than you think) pass.  So maybe, instead of trying to skip over all of the difficult portions of our life, we can experience them, we can learn from them, and accept them for what they are.

“Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.  Live the actual moment”  ― Thích Nhất Hạnh