Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Practice For A Positive Perspective

One of my favorite stories from the Eastern Philosophical canon is titled "The Farmer's Luck" and it goes as follows:

Long ago, there lived a farmer at the edge of a small village.
One day, his best horse broke through the fence and ran away. The farmer's neighbors came to visit and give him their condolences for his loss.
"Such bad luck!" they said sympathetically.
"Maybe." replied the farmer. His neighbors were puzzled by his response.
The next day, the horse came back, and with it, followed 2 new wild horses.
The neighbors, hearing the news, visited the farmer again.
"Wow, such good luck you have!"
"Maybe" said the farmer.
That day, the farmer's son, while attempting to ride one of the wild horses, fell and broke his leg.
"Oh, how unfortunate!" the neighbors said.
"Maybe" the farmer replied.
The following day, a military brigade marched through the village on the way to war, drafting all the young men in the village for their army. They noticed the farmer's son's broken leg, and did not draft the wounded young man.
"Such good luck!" said the neighbors.
"maybe" said the farmer.

What appeals to me the most of this tale is the simplicity of the story and the depth of its message. If we truly attempt to internalise the message, I think that we can find some sort of liberation and gain tremendous insight in terms of how we deal with issues in our lives.

I have run the gamut in terms of life's negative experiences, ranging from being abused by my Mother, bullied for being overweight as a child, having multiple near death experiences ranging from meningitis to having a drunk uncle hold a loaded shotgun to my head to prison riots to wilderness emergencies. Admittedly, these things did damage me. I am on medications for PTSD and rarely get a solid night's sleep. Every once in awhile I hit the brink of depression and have experienced the depths of depression in the past. My mindset is to always push harder in the sense that I need to further prove myself, despite several accomplishments, and sometimes I do this to the point of exhaustion or personal risk...

...but despite all of this, I am a happy person.

Granted, I this happiness does evade my consciousness, sometimes for lengthy spells, but it does always return. In fact, while I am probably intensely more cerebral than most, I truly believe that that which has not killed me has made me stronger. You see, just like the Farmer in the Taoist tale, my experiences left me in a position of either giving up or yielding to what they were and allowing myself to become flexible as opposed to fighting. If I had never been subjected to such abuses and situations, I would not be the person I am today. As a result of all these negative things, I discovered poetry, followed by Philosophy and, eventually, the Eastern ideas of Zen, Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism. In addition to this, I have had therapy which introduced me to other ways to modify my perspective by way of things such as gratitude journal and discrediting my anxieties.

It is so easy to hang on to negative experiences. Afterall, we are only human and very emotionally based creatures, no matter how hard our intellect may attempt to counter this fact. Oftentimes we are unable to let go, even though we realise that to do so would make us feel better and allow us to continue on with our lives in a more positive manner. This message is delivered in another one of my Zen favourites about two monks:

Two monks were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was falling. Coming around the bend, they met a lovely girl, unable to cross the intersection.“Come on, girl,” said the first monk. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud. The second monk did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he said. “It is dangerous. Why did you do that?” “I left the girl there,” the first monk said. “Are you still carrying her?”

Letting go is not instantaneous and may take a lifetime to achieve. This illustrates another quality that I have learned as a direct result of my negative experiences: life is about the journey or process, not the destination. Every beginning is another beginning's end. The beauty about Buddhism, Taoism, etc., is that it is all about the practice. There is always further for us to go in our experience in life. Being in the moment is crucial and the more we come to accept this, the more we come to reap the benefits of doing so.

This for me remains my stumbling block. I'm still far too much in my head. Just like a smoker may want to quit and knows the damage he/she is doing by having a cigarette, they continue to do so based on habituation and addiction, I too, while seeing the error of my emotional responses, do not allow my philosophical mind to centre myself. I have not mastered this, but I have made incredible strides since undertaking my present day approaches. Again, this underlines the importance of process, not the final product. This keeps life interesting!

Why am I writing this post? Well, those of you familiar with my writings (or who journey back into my previous posts) will see that this is an important sounding board for my own thoughts and something I like to discuss. Secondly, I was reading "Zen Shorts" by Jon J. Muth, in which the two stories I've mentioned in this entry appear (I initially came across them years ago in other texts and have heard a few variations - all which carry the same affect). Thirdly, because I've found myself distracted as of late from my more holistic practices such as Yoga and meditation and have observed the negative effect this neglect has had on my outlook. Finally, while perusing other blogs, I came across a few entries that sounded sad and despondent. It is my hope that, perhaps, someone else who is having a bad day may stumble across this entry and perhaps that will instigate a change...

At the end of the day, I write because it feels like what I need to do....



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