An acquaintance stopped me on the way into the video rental store, How’s your hand? I heard you’ve been having a rough time. Yes, three incidents over seven months: first a Volvo rolling over my left arm causing soft-tissue and nerve damage, then a neuropathic episode in the lower spine and right leg, and now a fall causing fractures, bruises, and a separated shoulder.
But you look so relaxed, how’s that possible? My learned tendency has been to see the glass half-empty, what neuroscientists call the built-in ‘negativity bias.’ Yet with each of these events I’ve felt lighter, more at ease. I’m surprised myself.
What’s the secret? I’ve come to regard these events as wake-up calls. You know, waking up to the fundamental truth that my ideas of how how life should unfold have little (or nothing) to do with what actually happens. The pain, these fractures, repeat visits to the ER, x-rays, CT-scans, expensive pain meds, walking with a stick — they’ve all helped focus my awareness on what’s real, not imagined.
In the old days I would have complained, saying things like poor me, why me, this isn’t fair, I’m getting old, I don’t like this, etc. I’ve learned that such add-ons cause suffering. In terms of Buddhist practice, I’ve had a taste of liberation from the bondage of habits.* That’s pretty cool. No wonder you’re happy.
*According to the Buddha’s Second Noble Truth, “the cause, the germ, of the cessation of dukkha … is also within dukkha itself, and not outside.” The word dukkha, from the ancient Pali language, translates as suffering, sorrow, misery, unsatisfactoriness.
source: Walpola, R. (1967). What the Buddha taught. (rev. ed.). London: Gordon Fraser, p. 31. image: that’s a picture of someone else: may they be happy and healthy.