Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave her the instructions for the battle. The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear.
Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
The hardest thing I have learned and still struggle with
is that I don’t have to be finished
to be whole
Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening
Consider the “forest pool” metaphor so popular in Buddhism. After inclement weather, the pool is muddy, full of sediment and debris. We cannot clear it by trying to control the contents – that would make the pool worse. We can only wait for all the sediment to settle to the bottom, leaving the pool clear again. So in meditation, by concentrating on the breath or our body or on sounds we can hear in the present moment, we create a space for clarity. We often find that in this spaciousness, an answer to a problem will simply “pop up” to the surface. Sometimes it won’t, but our bodies will thank us for a break from all the worrying.
Sarah Napthali, Stewing
One way to have good perspective is to see the world through the eyes of a child. We innocently report. We accept how others think and feel. If something is had or sad, or we’re scared, we say that. We say how we feel and what we want and need. We know that when we’re tired, we see things out of focus. And when things get too difficult, we either go play in the park or we take a nap.
Somehow we know that everything will work out.
When we taste something, what is the ‘realness’ of it? We can say, ‘It tastes nice’ but this is what we think about it, not what the taste is. We can say, ‘It’s a grape’, but that’s a designation, a perception, isn’t it? What is the actual taste? We say, ‘It’s sweet’, but ‘sweet’ is a judgment, isn’t it? We come to understand that the reality of it is indefinable, and that for most of our life we are operating at the level of interpretations and classifications, of secondary experiences, rather than living the actuality of it. We never even know who we really are, because everything is constantly changing; the reference points are changing so although we feel we’re something, nothing quite fits. So as long as we identify with the world of change and appearance, this is all we shall ever feel ourselves to be, just an appearance that changes and wants to find a certain position.
Ajahn Sucitto, Gnosis and non-dualism
We frequently get caught up in work, and identify with the pressing demands there, which pull us along and create a sense of great importance.
There is a story in Zen circles about a man and a horse. The horse is galloping quickly, and it appears that the man on the horse is going somewhere important. Another man standing alongside the road, shouts, “Where are you going?” and the first man replies, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!” This is also our story. We are riding a horse, we don’t know where we are going, and we can’t stop. The horse is our habit energy pulling us along, and we are powerless. We struggle all the time, even during our sleep. We are at war within ourselves…We have to learn the art of stopping – stopping our thinking, our habit energies, our forgetfulness, the strong emotions that rule us.
Thích Nhât Hanh, The Heart of the Buddhas Teaching