I have had the good fortune to meet many masters, many gurus, many teachers from many traditions. Do you know which master, which guru has most inspired me? It is life itself. Life is our best teacher.–Godwin Samararathne
This is my bumbling attempt to lift up 1) my fellow blogger Bodhisattvaintraining who got some intense news this week and 2) all our friends and family on the East Coast who probably can’t read this because they have no power.
You are down to your last $200 while living in your car–I’ve been-there-done-that (btdt). Your girlfriend dumps you and marries the next guy she meets–btdt. You sink all your money into a pipe dream that explodes in your face–btdt. In situations like this, the “everything happens for a reason” crap just doesn’t cut it. You need an emotional epidural STAT.
Here are five quick fixes for emergency situations. These techniques have worked for me in the past, and they continue to work for me in the present. I do not know if they will work for you because I am aware that some of you are suffering from losses that make my hardships look like a walk down the red carpet at the Academy Awards. I offer them not as an expert, but as a friend.
“Breathe in calm, breathe out smile”–Thich Nhat Hanh
Like my Chinese father-in-law says, “It so simpo.” Just breathe. When I was a kid, I had pleurisy, which is a lung infection. Every time I tried to take a breath, I would get a sharp pain like someone was jabbing a metal toothpick right between my intercostal muscles. I started to cry, but this made me breathe erratically which caused more pain. Then I panicked and started to hyperventilate which deepened the pain. It was torture.
When things seem unbearable in my life, I take a deep pain-free breath and thank God for the air.
the perfect moment
“The wound is the place where the light enters you”–Rumi (I borrowed this quotation from Mirth and Motivation. Thanks Elizabeth.)
I once met a Swedish traveler named Julian at a meditation retreat in Sri Lanka–a small island off the southern tip of India. They called Julian “the sitting one,” because he traveled all around India and Sri Lanka to attend every kind of meditation retreat available. With his shaved head and milky white skin, he looked like a little porcelain buddha as he sat for hours without moving.
One day Julian and I were walking around the meditation centre which is located in the secluded hills above a beautiful valley surrounded by tea plantations. When we came to a clearing that revealed a perfect view of the verdant valley and the setting sun, Julian remarked, “There will never be a more perfect moment than this: right here, right now.”
“You can say that again. This is beautiful,” I replied. But Julian just kept walking.
A few minutes later we came to a trash dump. A rusted refrigerator, some paint buckets, and piles of scrap wood littered the shrubbery under a dying tree. “There will never be a more perfect moment than this: right here, right now,” repeated Julian.
I try to keep this in mind when my life starts to smell like a trash dump. It is not the external circumstances that define our existence; it is the moment, the now, that exists only in our minds. We have complete control of that moment. We can make it “on earth as it is in heaven” or we can make it hell on earth.
“Catch a wave and you’re sitting on top of the world”–Beach Boys
Sometimes it is good to get away from people, including yourself. I have found that getting lost in nature helps me find my way in society. You don’t have to climb Mount Everest. Just hug a tree for 20 minutes. Take a walk on the beach and let the depth of the ocean swallow your ego and your problems. Follow an ant for 10 minutes and all the work you have to do doesn’t seem that tough anymore.
“When you arise in the morning give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”–Tecumseh (1768-1813)
The deeper I fall into despair the more I look for things to be grateful for. Once you find them, they are a lifeline that will pull you out of the miry pit as long as you keep hold of the line by finding more things to be grateful for. When I was living in my car, I was thankful for every night I found a place to park, and I could not believe how many people helped me out. When they saw that I was sleeping in the back of my truck, rather than call the cops, they invited me to park on their property or in their garage. Some even invited me in their houses and let me use their showers. Gratitude makes miracles happen. Regardless what the evening news says, the world is still an altruistic place. All people are full of love and godliness. They might have forgotten or may be ignoring their goodness, but when we are thankful for this inherent sacredness, the whole world welcomes us with open arms.
“Thank you Lord for what you’ve done for me. Thank you Lord for what you’re doing now.”–Bob Marley
If all else fails, put on some Bob Marley. If Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King had iPods, I guarantee you that Bob Marley would be on their playlists. I don’t know if it is the upbeat tempo of the reggae sound or if it is the word of God that comes from Marley’s lips, but Songs of Freedom have pulled me out of my darkest moments. My favorite tracks are “Thank you Lord,” “No Woman, No Cry,” “Simmer Down,” “Onelove,” and “Acoustic Medley.” “The stone that the builder refused, shall be the head cornerstone.” Lauren Hill‘s “Turn the Lights Down Low” remix will also work in a pinch.
What are your lifelines when you hit rock bottom? Please share.
Thank you for reading, sharing, and/or smiling.