Speak of difficult times, generally people understand it as: getting bad grades in school; having difficulty find a job after college; having a hard time finding a partner or making new friends; not getting the promotion that you deserved; not getting married in time and having children at the right age, and etc. Life seems to provide many difficulties at various stages, and how do we deal with these difficult times with a more positive attitude, and maintain the balance in the midst of these challenging times? Let us dive deep and take a different approach / perspective with such issue.
Notice what I have mentioned above have one commonality: Not getting what you want, or getting something that you don’t want. There are four quarters of truth about happiness: 1. Getting what you want, it is so wonderful that you can feel the happiness when you get it. 2. Not getting what you want, it is stressful and causes anxiety when you don’t get what you want. 3. Getting what you don’t want, it is definitely not a happy and joyful moment when you get something that you don’t want. 4. Not getting what you don’t want, hooray, it is definitely a sign of relief to not getting something that you don’t want to have to begin with. So in basic terms, when we get what we don’t want and when we don’t get what we want, stress and anxiety comes to our mind and we generally consider them as difficult situations. Why do we operate within the four quarters of truth about happiness? It is because we have built up a preference system from our past experiences. We tend to build likes and dislikes base on the situation of our past experiences, and it can become an illusion and disorient our reality and make us suffer throughout life. First Noble Truth of Buddhism teaching: All of life is suffering. Second Noble Truth of Buddhism teaching: The cause of suffering is desire and preference. When we perceive this world through our mind and the preference system that we built up, we will suffer. I will give a simple example: Tom loves Sushi because his first experience of Sushi was in an authentic Japanese restaurant, and everything was well prepared and the food was served with perfection. While Tom’s girlfriend Jenny hated Sushi, because her first experience of sushi was at a local Japanese fusion restaurant where they served spoiled fish and the server had a terrible attitude, the restaurant was playing some awful music while Jenny was there. Tom and Jenny cannot seem to come to agreement when it comes to sushi and they fight over who is right and who is wrong whenever they talk about Sushi. Now can we make a conclusion whether sushi is good or bad? Can we say whether Tom is right or Jenny is wrong? No, of course not, it is a preference built into each individual’s likes and dislikes, and such preferences can cause distortion to reality and make us suffer throughout different situations in life.
Now you might say: it is too late, I have already built up a preference system and it is ingrained into me. Do not worry, it is never too late to understand what preferences are, and we don’t need to get rid of them. We simply become aware of them, and when the difficult situations come, we are more conscious about it, essentially bringing out more awareness within ourselves to observe the difficult times. By simply observing the situation without too much emotions or thoughts attached to it, we are able remain conscious and bring out the sense of joy, peacefulness, tranquility and be at ease with life. There is a passage from Taoism Book Dao De Jing: 致虚极，守静笃。万物并作，吾以观复。what it means is that when we become empty minded, be with the stillness, we can observe the nature blossoming around us. We can use meditation or yoga to calm our mind, and sense the stillness and the conscious being of who we are, then we naturally become joyful and peaceful, and most of the time, difficult situations will dissolve after that.
One might ask: what happens if my house is set on fire? Do I just simply sit with myself and the fire will go away? Of course not, when I said most of the time, difficult situations will dissolve on its own, that is true and is because most of our problems come from our mind. There is another passage from Taoism Book Dao De Jing: 希言自然。故飘风不终朝，骤雨不终日。It is translated to Nature does not speak, yet the wind does not blow all morning, and the storm does not last all day. It is saying that everything is temporal, it will eventually pass with time, no storm can last all day, just as no difficult situation will last forever. Most of the time, difficult situations will dissolve on its own from time to time. There is also another famous saying: This, too, shall pass. However, in this situation, the fire on your house does not dissolve on its own, it requires certain actions. But what good does it do if you are panicking and crying and stressed out about what is going to happen next? You have to deal with your mind first, make sure it is relatively at ease, and then calmly call the police and fire department to receive the proper help, explain where the fire is and what happened leading up to the situation. Notice I never said this is not a difficult situation, but what we have control over is our response and reaction to the situation. Consciousness is the most important quality to possess in life, with consciousness, we are able to become more aware of the situation and calmly make the right decision to deal with it.
How do we remain centered and calm during the difficult times? First thing is to understand and see beyond the personal desire and preferences. Once we understand what it is, we can then practice being more conscious and aware when these situations come up. There are two types of practices when it comes to becoming more conscious, first type is the formal practice of meditation and yoga as tools to help us become more centered and conscious. set aside a certain amount of time each day to formally practice mindfulness meditation, to feel our body and mind and soul, to sense the present moment, and bring out the consciousness and sense of being with the present moment, and all mind made problems will slowly dissolve into the the abyss. I really love this quote from Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth: Human alone is never enough, no matter how hard you try or what you achieve. Then there is Being. it is found in the still, alert presence of Consciousness itself, the Consciousness that you are. Human is form. Being is formless. Human and Being are not separate but interwoven. We always live in the forever moving and constant changing society, but can we take some time to sit with ourselves and be more conscious and aware of our body and mind, sense the Being of the present moment and let the personal desires and preferences go.
The second type of consciousness practice is informal practice. Take a few seconds while we are doing a daily routine activity, such as waiting for an elevator or stopping at a red light during driving, use this moment to practice being more conscious, taking a deep breath, feel the inner being of our body and mind, slow it down and cease to be distract by it. Become more aware of our surroundings, appreciate what the universe has offered to us at this moment. There is a passage from Taoism Book Dao De Jing: 孰能浊以静之徐清？孰能安以静之徐生？ It is translated to: who can use stillness to let the turbid lake return to its natural state? Who can sit in silence and let things unfold the way it is. The lake is so beautiful and peaceful when it is still, but when a leaf fell into the lake, there will be ripples. By jumping into the lake and trying to stop the ripple, the lake will never be able to return to its natural state. By forcefully reacting to situations in life, we will never be able to witness it unfolds and learn what the universe has to offer us! With more and more practices, eventually we will be able to incorporate consciousness into every activity in our daily life. Focusing on the task while having a sense of peacefulness and tranquility in the back of our mind, being aware that there are less personal thoughts when we are performing the task. Incorporate Doing and Being into our daily life can increase happiness and decrease the amount of suffering that comes from our mind.
Thank you so much for reading this article! Hopefully you can find it inspiring and useful, feel free to discuss any topics mentioned above, or share any thoughts you have! Have a wonderful day! With Love and Respect!
Living Untethered: Beyond the Human Predicament
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