A friend had shared Tim Ferriss’ podcast with Tara Branch about mindfulness during tense and distressing moments.
She cites the story in Buddhist mythology of the eve of the Buddha’s enlightenment; where the Demon God Mara, who is lord of death and embodies what is rancid in the world: anger, lust, greed, pride et al., attempted to challenge him whilst he was trying to achieve dharma in meditation.
The then Siddharta Gautama sat in the lotus position, as Mara tried to send his beautiful daughters to seduce him, demons to attack him, offer the riches of the world to sully him. All the while, the Buddha sat steady in deep meditation underneath the Boddhi tree. Every time Mara would present a challenge to him, it would disintegrate into flower petals. By day break, there were mounds of jasmine blossoms by the Buddha’s feet.
But Mara did not relent, he would appear at different times in the Buddha’s life. Once when he was giving a lecture, Mara sulked on the out skirts, plotting to strike. Ananda, the Buddha’s trusted companion, was panicked by this and attempted to alert his master about the presence.
The Buddha very calmly addressed Mara.
“I see you, Mara. Come, let’s have tea.”
This is a metaphor for how we must tackle our challenges in life.
Embrace Your Challenges
These are two statements of mindfulness during distress.
By saying “I see you, Mara”, you are recognizing the challenge that has been presented to you. Sometimes it comes in the form of form of a physical ailment, a heartbreak, financial hardship or a career setback.
You are acknowledging, with an even and calm keel, that this storm has entered your life.
Saying “Come, let’s have tea” takes it a step further. You are telling your challenge there is space for you here.
This way you are quieting yourself and trying to understand the underlying message underneath the challenge, what it’s trying to teach you or what it’s trying to reinforce in you.
When I go through particularly rough patches in my life, my first instinct (before I had grown in the direction that I did) would have been to run from them.
People do this in many forms, they try to find outlets with which to numb their pain. Some party, some eat excessively, others shop for things for which they do not need, others use their relationships as a crutch for their suffering.
I have learned to embrace my storms.
This year has not been particularly smooth sailing, but I am so grateful for all of my challenges that life has presented me with; because all of them have given me the opportunity to quiet myself and listen to the whisperings of my heart, leading me down the paths I need to take.
Every challenge bears with it a lesson, a messenger.
Rumi’s poem “The Guesthouse” is the best encapsulation of this;
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
During these fearful times, it would do one well to embrace the chaos and succumb to what disturbs you.
Your job is to make space for these challenges and try to find the teacher in them. Your job is to accept the challenge and let it help mould you into the person you need to become to get where you have to be.
After all, they have been sent to you to for that very reason.