Peace is Every StepThich Nhat Hanh
There was an incident today and I really lost it. I snapped. I’ve had a lot going on, a few things contributing to that bucket of stress, and then this nuisance arose. It started as little and incubated to the thing that clearly tipped my balance.
It’s a bummer to spend the majority of our days focusing on peace and how we might attain it, and then to observe ourselves losing it in a fury of F-bombs. The lesson today: the only thing we really have control over is how we respond to things, and we may not have control of that, either.
In brief, here’s what happened. I checked on a registration situation yesterday morning and was told I was all set. Then I got a call at the end of the day, confirming that I wasn’t. The messenger of this news was extremely apologetic. I was on a walk in the woods with my dogs so I breathed, did what I had to do to deal with it upon returning home, and moved on. It was a scramble, but done (so I thought). The messenger was apologetic. I was cool.
Today, I took the required papers to the office. Again, the messenger was apologetic. I said she needn’t apologize again. When I returned to pick up the papers I had dropped off, I was told there was a problem. Again, everyone was apologetic. Trip number three, I started to get mad. What was on the line, quite frankly, was my daughter’s ability to return to the school she left behind three months ago for a term abroad. I needed to prove our residence here and, apparently, taxes and mortgage utility payments were not viable proof. My phone bill from five weeks ago was not current enough. This got me.
I started to swear and said, “I am going to go home and write an email to address this thoroughly and rationally,” which I did. It took me awhile and made me late for my next appointment on a day when I didn’t have an hour to spare. And, just as I moved my mouse toward the send button, the person at the root of the situation called me. (What timing!)
She started in on the problems with my documentation. When I say I lost it, I mean I. Flipping. Lost it.
The beast was unleashed. The more I said “I am not spending any more f-ing time on this,” the more time I spent getting hysterical about it. I kept saying, “I am hanging up this flipping phone” but then I kept needing to get one more f-bomb off about how mad I was at this person for creating flipping chaos and not having any flipping discernment. I used the f-bomb as a verb, a noun, a pronoun, and an adjective, multiple times, in varying tones of quiet and craze. It was an 1812 overture of f-bombs…
Here’s what I learned. We each have a capacity for the ridiculously frustrating and the inane. It is like little drips going in the bucket. Today, it put me over the edge.
The blood pressure shot up and adrenal wreaked havoc on my body for about 30 minutes. It took me about an hour to shake off. I decided afterward I needed more self-care, or “radical self-care” as many teachers call it. (I think it’s radical because it is so counter culture to take time to recognize when we need to slow down. This is the stupid flipping pressure we put on ourselves. Lame. Whatever, I clearly need more of it to balance my load.)
My meditation teacher happened to call me later in the day. When I answered and told her I was feeling a bit fried, she asked what I was doing to care for myself. I told her I was “being mindful” and adding in some exercise, enjoyment, and meditation where I could. In fact, I had carved time out recently to ski and get a massage. She told me all those things were important but maybe I needed to do more to take a little pressure off, to drain that stress bucket.
Next, she had me list four things I was doing to nourish myself. We discussed exercise, food (for nutrition and enjoyment), bodywork, and laughter. Then, she said I had to commit to one more thing that fed me. I said that, once I settled down from my house-holding ruminations and procrastinations, and despite the amount of time it was taking, writing this blog is a great joy. And it’s true: writing and reading inspiration nourishes me. It is my meditation.
Elesa says we must avoid unnecessary suffering. (This has confused me in the past.) Her teacher is Thich Nhat Hanh, who is a Buddhist, and The First Noble Truth in Buddhism is that life is suffering. Avoidance or acceptance, I didn’t understand. Until today.
Nuisances and stresses, humongous and gnat-like, are our reality. Life is hard and full of challenge. There is no place where, upon arrival, we can finally put our toes in the sand and be responsibility- or pain-free. The First Noble Truth of Buddhism sounds initially depressing because of that. But give it a chance and take it a step further. The process of finding beauty along the way, being grateful, enjoying life, breathing, communing with nature and God, listening, meditating, praying, being in community, caring for others, and doing the same for ourselves is the way out. And resting, 1/7th of our days. The Last Noble Truth promises that there is a path to enlightenment, heaven, and heaven on earth, and that path is mindful living.
Similarly, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the light.” Live in his peace, follow his example, observe his mindful ways, and you will find peace.
It just takes returning to that practice, before and after each f-bomb explosion. What is your practice, your meditation? And what are you doing for self-care? Ask yourself, and then add it as much and as often as you need. (Be generous!)
This poem is from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Peace is Every Step, The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life. The last two lines, especially, have helped me…
Peace is every step.
The shining red sun is my heart.
Each flower smiles with me.
How green, how fresh all that grows.
How cool the wind blows.
Peace is every step.
It turns the endless path to joy.