What to do when feeling overwhelmed

Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. But I try to work one day at a time. If we just worry about the big picture, we are powerless. So my secret is to start right away doing whatever little work I can do. I try to give joy to one person in the morning, and remove the suffering of one person in the afternoon. That’s enough.

When you see you can do that, you continue, and you give two little joys, and you remove two little sufferings, then three, and then four. If you and your friends do not despise the small work, a million people will remove a lot of suffering. That is the secret. Start right now.

Sister Chân Không

Keeping things in perspective

The mind seems to prefer drama, and a lot of the movies we play in our minds have us at the center of the story, exaggerating the impact of potential future scenarios, as we silently rehearse our lines to ourselves. This is also true in how we relate to the external world.

Are not our generations the crucial ones? For we have changed the world. Are not our heightened times the important ones?  Are we not especially significant because our century is? There must be something heroic about our time, something that lifts it above all those other times.

Plague? Funny weather? Dire things are happening… 

Why are we watching the news, reading the news, keeping up with the news? Only to enforce our fancy – probably a necessary lie – that these are crucial times, and we are in on them. Newly revealed, and we are in the know: crazy people, bunches of them. New diseases, shifts in power, floods!

But can the news from dynastic Egypt have been any different?

Annie Dillard, For the Time Being

We make our own problems


When you are completely absorbed in your breathing there is no self.  What is your breathing?  That breathing is not you, nor air.  What is it?  It is not self at all.  When there is no self you have absolute freedom.  Because you have a silly idea of self you have a lot of problems.  So I say your problems are homemade.

Suzuki Roshi, teaching June 1st, 1966

We are weak

Weakness is at the heart of each one of us. Weakness becomes a place of chaos and confusion, if in our weakness we are not wanted; it becomes a place of peace and joy, if we are accepted, listened to, appreciated and loved.

Some people are infuriated by weakness. Weakness awakens hardness and anger in them.  But to deny weakness as part of life is to deny death, because weakness speaks to us of the ultimate powerlessness, of death itself.  To be small, to be sick, to be dying, are stages of powerless, they appear to us to be anti-life and so we deny them.

 If we deny our weakness and the reality of death, if we want to be powerful and strong always, we deny part of our being, we live an illusion. To be human is to accept who we are, this mixture of strength and weakness

Jean Vanier,  Becoming Human