Do crises only bring difficulty or might they also bring us a clue to our wellbeing and happiness?
In times of crisis it’s natural to react with resistance, we don’t want it or like it. We often feel aggrieved at the way events have conspired against us. Circumstances change in a way we neither like nor anticipate and we feel out of control. Whatever the cause, it’s our reaction to whatever is happening that is both the source of the pain we feel and also the signpost to recovering our balance.
Our instinct rails against this idea, surely others are to blame for how we feel. Whilst behaviour and circumstances might be unfair, unjust or mistaken, the difficulty of our lived experience is personal to us and it is uniquely conditioned by the perspectives, beliefs and habitual thoughts we hold about ourselves and others. This personal lens through which we view events means we fail to have all the information we need to move towards something more wholesome.
How might we do this? Whatever has happened, however unfair, unjust or mistaken, our first step towards recovering balance is recognising:
“What we think and ponder upon becomes the inclination of our mind.” MN19 v11
If we repeatedly inhabit our stories of blame and criticism, we create defences in our mind that fuel our speech and action.
“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me”, in those who harbour such thoughts, hatred is not appeased.
“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me”, in those who do not harbour such thoughts, hatred is appeased.
Hatred is never overcome by hatred in this world. Hatred is only overcome by love. This is an eternal law. Dhp v3-5
Learning how to take control of these tempting impulses is one of our greatest acts of kindness to ourselves and others in our life. It is how we reverse the flow and expansion of discontent and unwholesome experience.
Changing direction internally needs us to step out of the familiar stories we repeat, and learn how to redirect the energy that fuels them, but how to do this?
This radical proposition, seductive in its simplicity requires us to investigate beyond the familiarity of reaction that we have invested in so heavily. The difficulty we all face here is how to re-focus our attention and begin to reconcile within ourselves the resistance that’s fuelling our reaction and has such an adverse impact on our happiness and wellbeing.
Investigating what we do not yet understand within ourselves, at a deeper level than our surface thoughts and habitual dialogue can start with a simple exploration of:
“I forgive myself for not understanding.” From the teaching of Bhante Vimaralamsi
The approach we need is to let ourselves rest with the simplicity of these words repeating them and staying open to the experience that unfolds. It can take time and patience to learn to listen in this way, to move beyond verbal analysis and internal dialogue and directly meet the defended wounds inside with kindness and compassion.
When we find the courage to look within in this way, we move from being hostage to an outer resolution that might never be forthcoming, to a freedom from our inner resistance and defensive tension. This gives us the opportunity to discover how crises can reveal the path to lasting happiness.