Sea of Troubles

“It is characteristic of many neurologists (and patients) that they mistake intransigence for strength, and plant themselves like Canutes before advancing seas of trouble, defying their advance by the strength of their will. Or, like Podsnaps, they deny the sea of troubles which is rising all around them: “I don’t want to know about it; I don’t choose to discuss it; I don’t admit it!” Neither defiance nor denial is of the least use here: one takes arms by learning how to negotiate or navigate a sea of troubles, by becoming a mariner in the seas of one’s self. “Tribulation” dealt with trouble and storm; “Accommodation” is concerned with weathering the storm.” – Oliver Sacks, Awakenings

In our lifetime of troubles big and small, we must learn to accept and manage every situation as it arrives. It must be done so with as little ego as possible, for trouble is trouble enough.

 

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How to survive living with others

“In that long time of captivity I had also come to know all the many people that were in me. Here again, I saw the same: many different qualities in each man and each of them looking and seeking for expression. Though we were all different, our shared suffering had made of us a collective community. We sought to complement each other, to understand the different aspects of each others’ personalities and meet with them meaningfully. By so doing we were always aware of each others’ mood swings and frustrations. […] But as I came to know each of them in the confines of this room, I began to re-understand that each man’s humanity and capacity to love expresses itself in different forms. In those sharing moments I discovered qualities that were lacking in myself.

[…]

The squabbling, when it did come, came over insignificant things. Always it is the case that when the mind is empty or tired or when like a child we need to be fed, we cry out in tantrums. Some men needed to be proved right to gain a small victory over their neighbour. It was a means of restoring identity. We all needed these things and we sometimes turned squabbling like hungry birds fighting over crumbs. At other times we realised the pettiness and futility and turned away embarrassed.” – Brian Keenan, An Evil Cradling

The above excerpt provides advice on sustaining a marriage, or any other relationship that involves living closely with another:

  • We have many different qualities in each of us. We can be inconsistent.
  • We should understand these qualities and
  • meet with them meaningfully (i.e. not to pick a fight).
  • We must be aware of our own and their moods and frustrations.
  • We should seek to understand their expression of love.
  • We should discover qualities to learn from.
  • We should not care too much about squabbles.
  • Remember that both of you are a collective community.

All in all, we should seek to understand another, with patience and an open heart.

Be True to Yourself

Words of wisdom from Seamus Heaney, taken from this beautiful article:

“Getting started, keeping going, getting started again — in art and in life, it seems to me this is the essential rhythm not only of achievement but of survival, the ground of convinced action, the basis of self-esteem and the guarantee of credibility in your lives, credibility to yourselves as well as to others.

This rhythm … is something I would want each one of you to experience in the years ahead, and experience not only in your professional life, whatever that may be, but in your emotional and spiritual lives as well — because unless that underground level of the self is preserved as a verified and verifying element in your make-up, you are going to be in danger of settling into whatever profile the world prepares for you and accepting whatever profile the world provides for you. You’ll be in danger of molding yourselves in accordance with laws of growth other than those of your own intuitive being.

[…]

The true and durable path into and through experience involves being true to the actual givens of your lives. True to your own solitude, true to your own secret knowledge. Because oddly enough, it is that intimate, deeply personal knowledge that links us most vitally and keeps us most reliably connected to one another. Calling a spade a spade may be a bit reductive but calling a wooden spoon a wooden spoon is the beginning of wisdom. And you will be sure to keep going in life on a far steadier keel and with far more radiant individuality if you navigate by that principle.

[…]

Whether it be a matter of personal relations within a marriage or political initiatives within a peace process, there is no sure-fire do-it-yourself kit. There is risk and truth to yourselves and the world before you.”

The Illusion of Attention

It is a common complaint that one simply can’t focus. Yet, who or what is to blame? In this day and age, so many things require our attention all at once. For example, we’ve got notifications from our social media accounts, updates from news websites and mass messages from group chats. How is one supposed to focus on a task with the bombardment of information 24/7? These notifications, updates, messages all seem to require our attention immediately, yet do they?

Try this: Do a 1-hour workout and leave your phone in your bag/locker. After the workout, look at all you’ve missed, and ask yourself if any of it required your immediate action. Did it affect anyone greatly when you gave no attention?

It is likely that the above practice will allow you to see that immediate attention is unnecessary. The notifications, updates, messages, emails, etc. are illusory calls for attention. Furthermore, unless you hold a position of great authority/responsibility or your boss is from hell, you will not need to attend to work matters with such urgency. Remember, time is the greatest currency.

Now that you realise that this rush to answer, to look, to comment is nonsensical, turn off the notifications and unsubscribe, as much as you can. Be mindful about your time, your precious time.

Stages of emotions

Zen teacher Seung Sahn Soen-sa advises his student who had found herself consumed with anger at her son. He wrote:

After sitting yong maeng jong jin (silent meditation), your mind was clear. A clear mind is like a clear mirror, so when anger appeared, you reflected with angry action. You love your son, so you were angry. Is this correct? Don’t check your mind – when you are angry, be angry. When you are happy, be happy. When sad, be sad. Afterwards, checking is no good.

Your previous anger and the anger you talked about in your letter are different. Before yong maeng jong jin, it was attached anger; after yong maeng jong jin, your anger was only reflected anger. If you do more hard training, the reflected anger will change to perceived anger. After more practicing, perceived anger will disappear. Then you will have only loving anger – inside you will not be angry, only angry on the outside. So attached anger, reflected anger, perceived anger, loving anger – all are changing, changing, changing. Anger is anger; anger is the truth. Don’t worry, don’t check yourself – it has already passed. How you keep just-now mind is very important.

Acceptance and reflection of one’s emotions will bring about greater inner peace.