Day 31 – Taking responsibility for my s&%t!
So, the last few days have been pretty stressful. I have been given an excellent situation for testing my practice and keeping my cool. I have been working hard for the last few months to get my house ready to rent out and was about to hand it over to new tenants after signing leases and their lodging bond. I am supposed to be on the final stretch of packing, cleaning and general mayhem, when my tenant’s circumstances change – nooooooo! This is the last thing I want to hear! Finding great tenants and having them move in is the keystone for my plans for the next 12 months and beyond. It represents a significant turning point. I was so close. I could taste relief. And now… uncertainty all over again.
My garden in the snow
Yes, uncertainty was, of course, always there but I got cocky and assumed that things would flow smoothly according to plan. This attitude was a mistake, a delusion. I was in the realm of hope, instead of reality, and the bubble burst suddenly. Need I remind myself that the unforeseen can arise at any moment!
So, now I go about the process of finding someone new. While I’m doing all I can to remedy the situation, my mind is not very happy to say the least. ‘What if this?’ and ‘what if that?’ It paints so many dire scenarios, running hither and thither in the realm of thought and disturbing emotions.
Fortunately, I have some perspective and some amazing methods that I have been taught for bringing my mind home from all this craziness. My teacher, Sogyal Rinpoche, speaks repeatedly about transforming our minds. ‘When we have an attitude or a bad mood we need to simply transform our minds’ he says. For a long time I kind of new what this meant but, this morning, the penny dropped. I was sitting on my couch with a cup of cocao watching a clip of Rinpoche teaching and I could feel the anxiety and worry writhing within me. At the moment, I tend to wake up in the morning and quickly start thinking about the house and my worries. The tension builds and builds and I feel so uncomfortable.
Anyway, watching Rinpoche speak about transforming the mind this morning and reflecting how I obviously do need to transform the atmosphere of my mind, I could see clearly what that choice is. It’s pretty simple actually. I get in a mood. I can stay there or I can transform it. I now have various means for transforming my mind (such as meditation, watching a teaching, doing something for someone else, feeling the pain I hold with compassion, love and openness to myself etc). Interestingly, however, I observed how much resistance there is to dropping the mood. It’s crazy, why on earth would I want to hold onto it?
As I reflect on this question, various responses come to mind: fear of letting go, not trusting things will be ok, needing to be in control, but I think what underpins all of these responses is a confusion about how things work. I think, somehow, that I need to figure it all out, that I need to ‘solve’ the problem through thinking about it, that if I just keep thinking about it often enough that it will miraculously be resolved. ‘Aha! I’ve found the solution!’ On reflection, I have already found the solution, I need to find new tenants and I do this by advertising the house and letting people inspect the place. I’m doing this but it takes time. My clinging to how I want things to pan out and thinking incessantly about all the things that can go wrong plays no role in how things turn out whatsoever! In fact, and this is where the magic I have spoken about before comes in, the more I drop these thoughts, let go and transform my mind, then the circumstances change. Again, I can’t really explain this but I’ve observed it repeatedly.
So, now I know that if, when I become aware of that mood building, I make the choice to use a skilful method to transform my mind by dropping all the negative thoughts underpinning this state of anxiety, my mind will relax and release, abiding spaciously, and my circumstances change. This is not that hard really. It’s funny though as I can feel that anxious little part of me going ‘noooo! I want to stay anxious. I want it to happen now, the way I want it to!’ It’s pretty funny actually when you think about it. If I follow the magic recipe things will work out but that anxious ‘little me’ wants to ‘sort it out.’ This is not to say that I don’t need to take any action to find someone to rent my house but these steps are obvious and easy and, beyond that, there is nothing else to do but to relax my mind and wait. As the great Buddhist master, Shantideva, said
If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?
When I speak of the ‘magic’, I have observed on numerous occasions recently that, when I am really able to drop what is bugging my mind and feel the spacious clarity that begins to dawn as I let go, that is when something shifts. I might receive an inquiry about the house or I have a positive interaction with someone who has come to view the place. If nothing else, I feel calm and confident about the situation and may think of another good way of advertising the place or making it more attractive to people.
So this is where taking responsibility comes into it. I can stay in the mood, while it builds and boils to the point of melt down, or I can transform my mind, knowing now, through direct experience, that I will definitely feel better. If I really, genuinely want to be happy, the choice is obvious. If I don’t, what does this say about me and how I think? It’s purely habit. I am so used to thinking, doing, struggling, trying as a means of finding happiness and now that I know that it does not work this way, I feel groundless and vulnerable – how weird! It feels uncomfortable because I am so used to being this way and of trying to control things. However, something has got to change. Picking endlessly at the scab of frustration, fear, control and anxiety has not really been working for me. So it is time to let go, enter that space of groundlessness and just see what happens. I have to do this. I can see now that if I don’t, nothing will ever really change.