Do you ever get angry and frustrated when things go missing or are either lost or stolen? Recently I have had some things go missing in the post, and failed to hold on to the tracking number I was issued! I had handmade some gifts and got them into the post before going away. 'Great, ticked that off the list' I thought,
When I arrived home I discovered that both parcels I had posted had not arrived. My initial reaction was one of blame and criticism of anyone I could think of: including myself for not delivering it in person or keeping the tracking number, Australia Post for its hopeless delivery system, and a possible passer by who may have nicked it from the doorstep. This hypothesising of possible blame and criticism was ruining my present and future peace of mind. I just couldn't let go of the disappointment of the missing parcels.
Then I remembered a very helpful, rather radical technique I had been studying in an ancient classic of Buddhist literature called 'The Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life'. This text is all about how to live like a Bodhisattva, or person trying to live a good life. The somewhat radical suggestion in Chapter 6 on patience is to think about the lost/stolen items as gifts to others. Now I am not saying this is easy to do. And it is certainly the opposite direction to where my mind wants to go, but it is so helpful for promoting my peace of mind and to stop the churning of my mind around where the items may be or who may have them and how. I can waste a lot of time and energy worrying about such things with lots of possible scenarios. So I can't know what happened to the gifts or where they are, so why worry? As I remind myself -
The next helpful, rather radical step, because I don't know where the parcels went, is to assume whoever has them needed the items. So I will decide to gift the parcels to them, instead of the intended recipient! Instant peace of mind as I let go of the worry, blame and resentment about it. When I blame, judge and criticise others I make them the enemy and myself a victim. When I decide to instead have compassion and forgive and choose to assume the best I have peace of mind.
Now I am certainly not advocating being a doormat and allowing others to harm us, or themselves. We need to do our best to prevent harm. So I will do my best to be responsible and keep the tracking number on parcels sent, lock the house and car, and keep an eye on my possessions. And I am also certainly not suggesting denying that the event has happened. I am just suggesting a helpful, kind way to think about things going missing for our peace of mind. As Pema Chodron says 'patience has nothing to do with suppression. In fact it has everything to do with a gentle, honest relationship with yourself. And she also says 'Be kinder to yourself. And then let your kindness flood the world'.
I used this technique when I had a laptop stolen one New year's Eve a few years ago. My recollection is that it took a lot longer to let go of the blame, anger and resentment. However, again, rather than have that negativity churning over and over in my mind I decided on a new radical approach. I didn't know the circumstances around why someone had broken into our house and taken things. As Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us 'When another person makes you suffer it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That is the message he is sending'. And so I decided to not stand in judgment and to have compassion, forgive them and wish them well with my laptop.
So my experience with Australia Post turned out to be an opportunity to practice patience, forgiveness, gratitude and generosity with myself and others - all good qualities to cultivate. It also provided an opportunity to let go of anger, resentment and judgment and experience more peace of mind.
I am writing this blog in the sun in Echuca, and would you believe I have just received a phone call to say the passenger side window of our car back at home is smashed. Here is a chance to put this same radical technique into place. More about that next week.
Have a great week. Thank you all.
Kind Regards and Best Wishes,