“I always wanted to see how equanimous Buddha would be if he was sleep deprived, stressed out about work and one of his kids had just chopped the tyres on his mountain bike to see how a saw worked”
Said an old friend as we were chatting the other day.
My friend had it right – Buddha had none of those things.
Buddha did it the hard way.
“Wha … ?!”
I hope you say, for I did put that last line in there for effect.
What do I mean by that?
Well — you see, we think peace and calm lies in the absence of problems, and equally we think problems are a cause of stress.
No problems means no stress, just peace, calm, serenity. If you could get away from the world, just like Buddha sitting under his tree, all would be well.
And all certainly is well. When all is calm, when there’s nothing disturbing on the horizon, the monkey mind rests and lets you be.
“Ahhhhh …” you think. “This is the life.”
Yet, how often does that ever happen? You there, living your life … how often is there nothing to do, nothing requiring your attention?
Right, like almost never.
So what do you do?
There’s two options.
1.) Avoidance of life is the first option.
Hiding away from anything that might rock the boat. Like relationships, family, jobs, Christmas, mobile phones, responsibilities … anything that challenges you.
The trouble is, this is supremely difficult to do.
No matter where you try and hide, life has a way of finding you. It has a way of creating problems for you, no matter where you go.
Because it’s not life that’s causing problems. It is you.
You are the one causing yourself all the grief and stress in the world – nothing and no body else.
It is you.
More exactly, it is your monkey mind, the part of you that is always looking for something else with its shiny object syndrome and/or “I’m no good, never have been.”
You try and run and hide, and there you are.
You cannot run, so what can you do?
But before we get into that:
Taking time out to hide away, to retreat from the world, is actually very important. Essential this is as it gives you clarity and perspective. It helps you catch your breath before you plunge back into life.
Retreating can be done daily, as in a regular practice of going within, and on a bigger cycle such as every six months or yearly.
Super important. Mega important. Vitally important even.
But different from running away. Permanent retreat is avoidance, and avoidance isn’t a path of satisfaction, ever.
2.) The second option then is not to avoid, but fully engage.
To embrace every single part of life, the sleeplessness, the relationships, the kids, the traffic, the job, the uncertainty of life, the hacking of mountain bike tires, all of it …
But with the critical distinction of changing your attitude that created the stress and struggle before.
Choosing a new attitude entails a different vision of stress and problems and peace for you, and it’s this:
What if, all your problems were there to actually help you?
To help you live a bigger, bolder, more free and totally peaceful life?
So you could learn to be calm and free regardless of what is happening in your outside, external life?
You see, all your problems are actually your greatest teachers for serenity and courage, and not the greatest source of distraction from attaining your greatest happiness.
An attitude like this means all the events of life become an opportunity to create such a bullet proof and rock solid habit of serenity in the face of adversity …
And also the boldness to not avoid difficult situations, but approach them.
To walk through them with awareness and compassion for yourself and others as you learn to stay calm, clear and at peace as you navigate challenges and the stuff you really wish didn’t happen.
I have a friend who calls these “Masterclasses”:
Things you might not necessarily choose, but that which give you greater insights and abilities that ever before.
Hiding away in a cave will never give you these Masterclass opportunities.
Taking yourself out of the world and away from all these things is simply removing yourself from your greatest teachers.
Wishing you could hide away like you think Buddha did is not a choice you want to make, if you want to live the best life possible.
The very first step is to trust that everything that happens is actually, as the well known phrase goes, not happening to you, but for you.
Approach, don’t avoid.
Approach the same things but with a different attitude. Get clear and see what you can learn from these things. And that attitude makes all the difference.
Then you can see what you can change, and what you need to accept – but with clarity. There’s no clarity in stress.
Take your mini-retreats and get your eyes closed every day in something like the Ishayas’ Ascension meditation. It’ll give you the ability to respond rather than blindly react so much easier.
Then you’ll be able to live a life you are proud of, and excited by. Where every single moment you could make easy and enjoy. Where nothing rocks your boat, ever.
How would that be for you?