Dealing with life's difficulties : No 1

From a group member: -

Our discussions often deal with the way we approach difficult situations usually accompanied by complex cocktails of emotions.  It was in the October 7th edition of the Lions Roar e-mail that I saw the title : Life is Tough –here are six ways to deal with it by Norman Fischer (2013), reprinted by arrangement with Shambhala Publications. (Cherry has referred to this article on the home page). The following passages resonate with me:

While trying to avoid difficulty may be natural and understandable, it actually doesn’t work. We think it makes sense to protect ourselves from pain, but our self-protection ends up causing us deeper pain.  We’re attached to what we like and try to avoid what we don’t like, but we can’t keep the attractive object and we can’t avoid the unwanted object. So, counterintuitive though it may be, avoiding life’s difficulties is actually not the path of least resistance; it is a dangerous way to live. If you want to have a full and happy life, in good times and bad, you have to get used to the idea that facing misfortune squarely is better than trying to escape from it.

This article on transforming bad circumstances into the path addresses the underlying attitude of anxiety, fear, and narrow-mindedness that makes our lives unhappy, fearful, and small. Transforming bad circumstances into the path is associated with the practice of patience. There are six mind-training (lojong) slogans connected with this:

1.Turn all mishaps into the path.

2.Drive all blames into one.

3.Be grateful to everyone.

4.See confusion as buddha and practice emptiness.

5.Do good, avoid evil, appreciate your lunacy, pray for help.

 6.Whatever you meet is the path.

 

The following is about no 1. Each month there will be a contribution around each of these 'slogans'.

 

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1. Turn All Mishaps Into the Path

Turn all mishaps into the path, is about training the mind. We do this by practicing patience, which is the capacity to welcome difficulty when it comes, with a spirit of strength, endurance, forbearance, and dignity rather than fear, anxiety, and avoidance. Fischer refers to patience as his “all-time favourite spiritual quality; the most substantial, most serviceable, and most reliable of all spiritual qualities” something I would agree with from a Christian viewpoint.

 

When tough times cause our love to fray into annoyance, our compassion to be overwhelmed by our fear, and our insight to evaporate, then patience begins to make sense.  

The practice of patience  : When difficulty arises, notice the obvious and not so obvious ways we try to avoid it—the things we say and do, the subtle ways in which our very bodies recoil and clench when some- one says or does something to us that we don’t like. To practice patience is to notice these things and be fiercely present with them (taking a breath helps; returning to mindfulness of the body helps) rather than reacting to them. We catch ourselves running away and we reverse course, turning toward our afflictive emotions, understanding that they are natural in these circumstances—and that avoiding them won’t work. We forestall our flailing around with these emotions and instead allow them to be present with dignity. We forgive ourselves for having them, we forgive (at least provisionally) whoever we might be blaming for our difficulties, and with that spontaneous forgive- ness comes a feeling of relief and even gratitude.

We are talking about training the mind. Meditating daily with the slogan Turn all mishaps into the path, in your sitting, writing it down, repeating it many times a day, then you could see that a change of heart and mind can take place in just the way I am describing. The way you spontaneously react in times of trouble is not fixed. Your mind, your heart, can be trained. Once you have a single experience of reacting differently, you will be encouraged, and next time it is more likely that you will take yourself in hand. When something difficult happens, you will train yourself to stop saying, “Damn! Why did this have to happen?” and begin saying, “Yes, of course, this is how it is. Let me turn toward it, let me practice with it, let me go beyond entanglement to gratitude.”

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