Two sides of each emotion

Buddhism says that each of our emotions have two sides- positive and negative.  While one can’t anything about having emotions and one has to live with them, one can change our reaction and outcome for each emotion. So for example, tranquility can be seen as a positive thing but taken too far, it can make us seem too complacent to be bothered about anything.  So as long as we are happy in our little world, we are not concerned about the rest of the humanity.  On the other hand, anger is seen as a negative emotion.  But it can be a force for good too. It can be justice, it can be a strong concern to change something in ourselves and others.

I mostly live in the world of tranquility- happy to live and let live.  But because of this attitude, I have been taken for a ride, people have cheated me and I have been hurt. It takes me a long time to be angry but I have noticed that when I am angry, I get things done.  Recently a second hand shop sold me a radio which was defective. I took it back three times and each time the shopkeeper said that it would work after I tuned in at home.  This has turned out to be false.  The man also spoke to me in a patronising way.  So last week, I got really angry- angry at both the man and at myself.  But keeping anger bottled up is also negative, so I used that energy to research and get myself a nice radio. I needed to respect myself.  No more going back to that shop and I am now back to my world of tranquility again.  But I realised that it is good to get angry (but not destructively) once in awhile and get things done!

Cut yourself loose

Recently I was involved in an argument with a person who had been bad mouthing me and was saying even worse things to me on my face.  I knew I wasn’t going to win this- the person was adamant that I had been disrespectful to them.  I did not say what I knew, just shrugged my shoulders and walked away.  This person followed me, astounded that I did not want to argue my case or even protest. I just said, ‘If that is what you want to believe about me, that is fine.  I will simply walk out of the door into the sunshine and forget this conversation happened.’  So I did. I had a lovely walk in a park and reflected on my situation.  And I realised that by coming out of this argument, I had actually been respectful to myself and even better, had now time to pursue more constructive and creative relationships.  It was as if a balloon had been cut loose and was now drifting in the blue sky- I felt so happy and light.  Sometimes we do not realise what life gives, what gifts we receive.  Instead we hanker after what was and try to keep in relationships that have no meaning, friendships that are toxic and harmful.  Cut yourself loose and find that creativity, joy and connectivity- there will be other balloons loose too that you will see when you find yourself in that blue sky!  There is nothing good or bad, only the value you make out of the situation.  It reminded me of this Chinese story that I had heard Mark Tully, former BBC correspondent use in his book, although it is attributed to Anthony de Mello here.

There once was a simple farmer who lived and struggled alongside his neighbours and friends, trying to exist and fulfil a peaceful life. One day news arrived from far away, that his old loving father had died. His neighbours gathered to grieve, but the farmer simply said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

In time relatives brought a very fine horse of great cost and fine breeding, left to the farmer by his father. All the villagers and neighbours gathered in delight with him to celebrate his good fortune, but he just said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

One day the horse escaped into the hills and when all the farmer’s neighbours sympathized with the old man over his bad luck, the farmer replied, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

A week later the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and this time the neighbours congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply was, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

Then, when the farmer’s son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Some weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer’s son with his broken leg they let him off. Now was that good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?

An ancient Chinese story as told by Anthony de Mello in The Song of the Bird

Being Happy

Here is an amazing video that I discovered where Pharrell Williams is talking about life’s journey, about being happy and making others happy.  Although he is talking to school children, what he says is quite deep and philosophical. He says, “Happiness is not about the trophy, or the finish line. It’s the journey. If you enjoy your journey, you can enjoy your life”.  So much so that 20th March has been declared ‘International Happiness day” by the United Nations.  Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the Japanese philosopher said that our purpose on the planet was to be happy, nothing else.  After all, in the end we all die, so what other purpose could life have, apart from being happy the time you are here?  This is not to say we ignore the bad things around us.  However, as a friend and I noted the other day, bad news and gossip, seem to spread faster than good news and praise.  Perhaps if we pay more attention to good news and being happy, then there will be less bad things that happen in life?  You decide.

PS- also note that Pharrell Williams thanks the girls, because without them and others, the song would have been just inside of him.  Everyone made the song what it is today.  Gratitude=even more Happiness!

the law of cause and effect

How often do we think we are at the butt of something unfair done to us by someone?  I used to be like that until I realised the ‘law of cause and effect’ works in life as well as physics.  I realised how cunningly this ‘life law’ operates. I realised one can fool society, fool the legal system but not this universal law.

My big lesson came when I was dropping off my son to school enroute to work.  I was using a taxi for this as I needed to get to work quickly after that.  I got out at the school and took my son inside.  Upon return, I found an argument going on.  It appeared that my taxi had been reversing and while doing so, had come very close to a school child cycling on the pavement.  The mother was shouting angrily while the driver kept saying that she should not have let her son be so close to the road.  I apologised profusely to the mother and then went on my way.  Later on, I complained about the driver to the taxi company and told them that this driver was not good.

Four weeks later, I was walking home with my son when I nearly got knocked over by a child, rushing around in his bike.  I recognised the boy immediately.  The mother was on the mobile phone while the boy was cycling in the school grounds where one is not allowed to do so.  My son laughed when he saw my shocked face and said, ‘Mummy, did not you not know that he is always rushing around, hitting other people?’  At that moment, I also felt guilty for having complained about the taxi driver.  While the mother was quick to blame the taxi driver, she saw nothing wrong in what her son was doing.  She failed to take responsibility for her own actions.  Heaven forbid that in the earlier incident, nothing had happened to the boy.  Yet, it struck me how the mother had failed to see ’cause and effect’ and learn from the earlier incident.

After this, I started noticing more and more, the causal law at work.  People dropping cigarette stubs on the pavement, then getting splashed by a car; someone bring rude to others and then someone else being unreasonably rude back to them;  cheating on the benefits system and then losing their jobs or money, etc.  All these people without fail would complain, ‘What have I done to deserve this?’  I also saw the reverse of this: people smiling at each other, being polite to someone  and then getting an unexpected gift or something else that made them happy.  It was so easy and direct- the lesson being that if you are good and do good, then goodness comes back to you in one way or the other.

This has made me less liable to complain and has given me more contentment.  I have stopped ‘expecting’ from people too. Sometimes the law of cause and effect is not direct. So I may give something to someone but I may find an unexpected gift coming from someone else.  When we accept the law of causality, we stop becoming victims- we know we can change so easily.  In our web of life, we are all interconnected and what ever we do, has a reaction.  So let us always do good.