Here’s a thought I’d like to share…
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
One day, a monk was walking by the banks of a lake and found an abandoned rowboat. He spent several months lovingly restoring it. Finally, the day came to launch it on the clear waters of the lake. As he began to row, he noticed that it was getting foggy, but he continued nonetheless. Suddenly, swiftly cutting through the fog came another rowboat, which rammed into his boat. All of his work – the new wood and the paint job – was damaged. The monk got angry and strained to see who had done this thoughtless thing to his beautiful boat. And then he saw that the other boat was empty. His anger collapsed in the moment.
~ from Judith Lasater’s book, Living Your Yoga
The monk was reactive. He was angry and, without thinking, looked for someone on which to blame his anger. When he saw that the boat was empty, he realized that there was no one to blame, that the collision had just happened. He could be mad at the boat, he could be mad at himself for going out in the fog, he could be mad at the river, he could be mad that he ever found the boat in the first place, he could even be mad at “the injustice of it all!” But none of these things were going to make what had happened any different. As the Zen saying goes, “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.“
So much of our suffering is because of our emotional reaction to our experience rather than because of the experience itself. When something happens that we don’t like, we often cast blame, seek revenge, feel indignant, or vacillate between these feelings.
If we can step back, pause, and see things for how they really are versus how we think they should be, we might find that there’s no real blame to be had.
It was just an empty rowboat, in the fog, on the river of life.
What are the empty rowboats in your life? Do you hold tightly to your “right” to be reactive, or are you willing to allow your anger to collapse and float away down the river?
Wishing you the pause that changes challenges into teachers…