We have a choice. We can spend our whole life suffering because we can’t relax with how things really are, or we can relax and embrace the open-endedness of the human situation, which is fresh, unfixated, unbiased.” – Pema Chödrön
by Ashleigh Wilson: ““Ouch!”
Walking hazy-eyed through my lounge in the early morning light, I had slipped on a dog toy, my head hitting the coffee table on the way down.
Laying face-first on the floor, my jaw tightens as I rub the rapidly developing lump on my forehead. The brief optimism I’d had about the day disperses. Across the other side of the room, my dog stands gingerly in a corner, back arched, head bowed, ears back, tail between his legs. His hesitancy only lasts a second before his tail re-emerges in a gentle wag. ‘We can still go for a walk, right?’ His eyes ask.
Pulling myself up, I rush to the shops to grab some groceries for my day’s meals. The old lady in front of me at the check-out seems to take a millennia as she places each item carefully on the register, chatting cheerily with the cashier about her granddaughter. My head throbs. My jaw clenches again.
Once home, I throw some ingredients into the blender and pick up my phone.
The lid comes loose on the blender. Smoothie covers me, my dog, my phone, my entire kitchen, including the floor I had cleaned the previous day.
I stand there, grinding my teeth, looking for someone to blame for this latest mishap in my morning, but there is no one but me. I had been distracted and hadn’t tightened the lid.
Annoyance washes over me; annoyance at myself, at the old lady, at the day. A second wave of annoyance comes as I begin to berate myself for being annoyed, my lack of mindfulness. And then suddenly I laugh. “What am I doing?”
I am standing in the middle of my kitchen doing nothing but feeling annoyed, and feeling annoyed at feeling annoyed. Closing my eyes, I remember the words of Buddhist teacher, Pema Chödrön:
“Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”
Of course, putting this wisdom into practice is sometimes easier said than done. We’ve all had those moments, those days, those weeks, months, years! Times when things just don’t seem to be going right, when the silver lining seems impossible to find.
We imagine a future when we are happier, when we have our life together, when things are going ‘right’ and are the way they ‘should be’. We imagine that is when we will find our peace of mind, our peace of heart. And in the meantime, we let small moments of frustration, anger, defeat ruin our daily lives.
This is particularly true with the changes and events currently taking place around the world. An overriding and unconscious question now looms for many people, ‘Will I be safe?’ Our anxieties and fears are heightened, and with this little things can become big things much more easily. So let’s have compassion for ourselves, let’s remember that these reactions are normal, and we can pull ourselves out.
For me, releasing myself from the negative loop comes in the form of a simple question. Taking a deep breath, I ask myself, ‘Is it worth my peace?’
Today, the answer is clear. Being annoyed is not going to achieve anything. Instead, I look for the lessons I could take from the morning: to slow down, to be patient. But most of all, I know the lesson I need to remember is the one from Pema, to meet whatever is here and find peace in each moment.
“Rather than being disheartened by the uncertainty of life, what if we accepted it and relaxed into it? What if we said, yes, this is the way it is; this is what it means to be human, and decided to sit down and enjoy the ride.” – Pema Chödrön
I know magical things happen when I embrace all dimensions of my life. So, as I stand covered in green smoothie, a bump on my head, and my clean floor once again dirty, I meet my annoyed self where she is. And as I do, my shoulders relax, my jaw unclenches, I soften into the moment, and all the beautiful things in my morning that I had brushed over in my rush and frustration float through my mind. I think of waking up to the sound of rain, of cuddling with my dog in bed, of finding my long lost earring under an armchair, the guy who handed me my dropped purse in the supermarket, the obvious love the old lady at the checkout has for her granddaughter, the patience of the cashier and the sun creating a halo around the clouds.
I turn to my dog, announcing it is ‘walk time’, grinning at his little circles of excitement as he busks the joy of the present moment. It is the cherry on the cake that is my morning. My wonderful, blissful, perfect morning. As we walk out the door, both of us still covered in smoothie, I know I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
― A.A. Milne