It was one of a number of days when I was in an argument with a loved one — I won’t name names, to protect the innocent — but this time was a little different. I caught myself in the middle of frustration and anger with this loved one, and I thought, “What am I doing?”
I was mad because I wanted the person to be the way I wished them to be. Why couldn’t they just be that way? Then I realized how crazy that was, to expect other people to be the way I wanted them to be. To expect the world to behave the way I wished it would. To expect reality to match up to my ideals, as if my ideals were more important than anything else.
This was the trap of the Mind Movie we discussed in the last chapter. We explored how this is the heart of any problem … but how do we deal with that heart?
In my argument, I was lucky enough to be able to pause. I saw the Mind Movie that was causing my anger, and saw how it was unrealistic and unhelpful. I thought, “What if I let go of this ideal (how the other person should act) for a minute, and just look at them as they are?”
Then I realized that I had two choices: I could either wish they met up with my ideal, and be frustrated, unhappy, and harm my relationship with them … or I could melt into who they are and accept who they are, and see the beauty in who they are. And in the process, be happier, less frustrated, and a better friend.
How to melt
The choice was easy, of course: it’s much better to accept the other person as she is. My problem was that I didn’t want to accept her. I wanted her to meet my ideals. I resisted letting go of my ideals, and as we’ve seen, resistance can be difficult.
What worked for me was to melt my resistance. I imagined my resistance as a hard substance that created tension in my body, that was tightly holding onto my ideals, that resisted what the other person was doing. I had to melt away that tightness, that tension, and that resistance. This melting is literally a softening of yourself: your body relaxes, your jaw unclenches perhaps, your mind softens to the idea. It’s not always easy, and it takes me some deep breaths.
In this argument, it took some melting, but it worked. I felt better, I apologized, I saw the beauty in this person, and I gave thanks for it.
See the plum blossom
It turns out that the answer for dealing with the heart of every problem is something we already dealt with as we worked on changing a habit: the Plum Blossom.
As the blossom reaches the peak of its beauty, it is about to die. Think about this for a moment: as we behold this astonishing beauty, we might wish it would last forever. This wish is a Mind Movie: a desire, an ideal, for this beauty to stay with us longer. This desire, this wish, this ideal … it will only result in heartbreak, as the reality of this blossom is that it is dying and will soon be gone. Reality doesn’t match our Mind Movie, so we will suffer.
Instead, we might breathe in the beauty of this blossom, but accept its impermanence. We might accept the reality of the situation, which is that the beauty is here for a moment but fleeting, soon to be gone. We might see the beauty in that reality — that the blossom is even more beautiful and poignant because it is transient.
This is how to deal with the One Problem: let go of the Mind Movie, and instead see the beauty in the reality of the situation. Appreciate it.
I let go of my expectations of my loved one and saw the beauty in who they actually were. And I was grateful for it.
If we can learn to appreciate others, or ourselves, or external situations, just as they are, we will be happier, more at peace. We can deal with any situation in peace, if we accept and appreciate the reality of the situation.
We can accept the Noisy Children and find gratitude for them.
We can accept ourselves for the beautiful people that we are and appreciate the wonderful qualities we actually have.
We can accept the illnesses that befall our loved ones and appreciate those loved ones while they’re here, more poignant because of their impermanence.
We can embrace that impermanence, embrace the reality, and be grateful it is as it is.
Mission: Accept someone today
As you go about your day, be mindful of your expectations and frustrations with other people or yourself. See the frustration, irritation, anger arise, and see that your Mind Movie (ideals, expectations, wishes) is the cause. Instead, see the beauty in the Plum Blossom of the person: they are who they are, and that is beautiful. Accept and appreciate them (or yourself). Journal about it.