Arts & Crafts Magazine

How This One Sentence Can Change Your Life

By Laharris1

how this one sentence can change your Life

I was listening to a podcast by one of my favorite Buddhist teachers and afterwards I kept coming back to this one simple line she shared, a quote by Joseph Goldstein.Even though the talk runs almost an hour I kept focusing on the portion of her topic that had to do with the unpleasant, messy parts of life. The stuff we view as “problems."  And I kept replaying her eye-opening views on how we respond to them.“How do you react when something difficult arises, a situation that brings up your fear or anger. Maybe something that's happening to your kids?”She asks me, because at this point it feels like she’s talking directly to me.She points out my habit of framing things as a problem. And I instantly feel jolted by this idea. I think about my own comfy view of myself as an efficient problem-solver and suddenly I feel exposed; I’m the emperor with no clothes on hiding behind my nice little euphemism. Because the truth is maybe what I’ve actually become is a really good problem finder.  At times, I'm like that tormented kid from the movie The Sixth Sense, except instead of seeing dead people I have the uncanny ability to see all the bad things that could go wrong in a situation, especially when it comes to my kids. The thing is---you wouldn't necessarily know this about me at first glance. That's because I've repackaged my worry and attention to details into a prescient talent that's great for managing creative projects and crunching numbers but deep down, I know the truth. I realize this when I’m on my yoga mat and I realize this when I’m meditating. This kind of control is what the Buddhists call suffering. As I listened to Tara Brach's words, I began to reflect on all the emotional energy I use trying to foresee problems…. trying to prevent problems and fix problems….no wonder I was captivated by Joseph Goldstein’s quote. In fact, I think this little sentence just might change my life:

how this one sentence can change your Life
Do you have a certain vision of how life should be?Tara Brach explains that if we attach ourselves to a certain vision of how life should be then when those complicated, unexpected situations arise we will instantly say, “Oh no!This shouldn’t be happening” and we'll go into “reactive” mode which looks like this: physically we contract, we tense up and mentally we push back on the situation. But here’s the part that felt new and insightful to me. If you look closely at these descriptions---you can see how they literally create an experience of smallness—these are reactions that take us into a restricted, ego-centric view of the world that’s clouded by our emotions and our needs. It’s from this limited perspective that we seek to control and resist and do battle with anything that doesn't fit that "ideal" image in our head. What we think should be happening. Of course this is the opposite of the Buddhist way.And it’s the opposite of the wise, peaceful, open-hearted life I aspire to live and so I listen intently to Tara Brach describe another way. And I become instantly smitten with her description of our Ocean-ness, that wondrous feeling when our hearts awaken and we’re in touch with the vastness of our Love and our connection to the Universe, our sense of connectedness to God and to each other. Being in touch with our Ocean-ness may be fleeting for most of us, but our inner wisdom tells us it's the opposite of living small, of being caught inside our ego-driven worlds—where we’re fixated on outcomes and we’re running around trying to control things in order to make life happen in a certain way.

Is there something here that you can relate to? Because I hesitate to continue without stressing this one missing piece.those old, "automatic" behaviors tell a storyHowever you relate to this post, it’s important to understand that so many of our behaviors are rooted in our own childhood story. Be compassionate when you think about those behaviors that feel very old and "automatic." Behaviors like these make sense when we slow down and look at our early lives with insight:

  • Your tendency to worry
  • Your role as the caretaker who fixes things,
  • Your need to control
  • Your struggles to let go and trust the process.
When I was writing this post I actually remembered a time when I was kneeling next to a bathtub, worried because my Auntie was crying with her face buried in her knees while she sat in the warm water. I was a little girl and it’s one of those memories that feel magnified---with no other people around—just me and her in that darkened bathroom. Where were my cousins? I wonder even today. I just remember fragments, my Auntie telling my mother what a comfort I was to her, and the heaviness in my chest because I wasn’t sure what to do to make her feel better. Over months ---as I played with my twin cousins at their house-- I had seen the changes in my beautiful, troubled Auntie. I had watched her body slowly shrink and when I asked her about her new pants I remember she told me that she lost her weight by eating only one bowl of oatmeal a day, a fact that shocked me back then. Boy, I thought, she must really love Neil because she didn't eat like that when she was married to Uncle Brownie.

Even us kids knew about Neil—the married man she loved. I had heard my mom and my grandma talking and I knew it was a bad thing but I had never seen Auntie smile so much. I used to watch her while she stood in front of the mirror that was over her brown dresser. She would be getting ready for work, dressed in her navy and white airline uniform and smacking her lips after she put on her pink lipstick and she looked so glamorous. But that was before. Before something bad happened and I never did know what, but the next thing I remember is feeling so nervous ---like I had a stomach ache except I knew I wasn’t sick –it was because I couldn’t figure out what to do as I sat next to the bathtub. She had called my name , I heard it from the hallway and I had turned the doorknob slowly, unsure about coming inside because well, she was naked in the tub. But that wasn’t so shocking compared to the tears-- I’d never seen Auntie sob so openly, as if I wasn’t even there. In my confusion I looked down at the wet edge of the tub and saw a blue washrag and picked it up. And while she wept I dipped it lightly into the soapy water and moved it to the top of her back. Her black hair was swept up in a loose ball so I could see the line of bumpy bones going down her creamy white back as I wiped her shoulders with the rag. I have many childhood memories in which I was overly focused on the emotional needs of the adults in my life. Recently I was in a conversation with my 21 year old son talking about my childhood role and it occurred to me that it must be hard for someone who was allowed to be a child in his childhood--- to understand what it would feel like for a child to be parentified, to be put in a situation as a child where you’re running around constantly worried about an adult’s happiness.I say this without judgment and after having years spent in the therapy field. And the reason I share it here, is to emphasize the need to remain curious and open about your own histories, especially if you’re confused about your present-day behaviors. Maybe as you read along and consider a different way of dealing with life's ups and downs, you might start to think about your own past. Don’t be afraid to look deeper, it’s so liberating to have answers.
how this one sentence can change your Life

Doing things differentlySo let’s talk about doing things differently. 

Throughout this podcast, what I heard Tara Brach emphasize was the importance of our attitude when dealing with difficult situations. She talks about keep an openness about things, and a relaxed, friendly attitude. And we also need to remember two new ideas.

  1. Don’t lock into “This is bad. This shouldn’t be happening."
  2. Remember the magic mantra: “Oh-and-this-too”
The key according to Tara Brach, is not to lock into this is bad, or “this shouldn’t be happening” because the reality is that Life is just being as it is….and she says "we need to realize we can respond intelligently without instantly making others wrong and without creating problems."Responding with a feeling of openness allows us to re-inhabit the space that's there--the space that exists before we fill it up with fear and anger---and lose contact with our sense of Ocean-ness.She explains that when you imagine your situation---whether it’s about finances, or a relationship or your job---something that causes you distress and worry, allow yourself to know that yes, it’s unresolved and it’s sticky and yes it’s stressful ….but know that it doesn’t have to be a “problem.” And just deciding that it’s not a problem gives you a little less fixation and a little more space to view your situation.Instead of tensing up, allow yourself to relax into this idea that Life just is.There is no ‘right” version or “wrong” version of Life –those versions only exist in our minds and it’s these certain images that cause us to suffer with worry and try to control things but the irony is, when we’re in this kind of "trance," we can’t see the truth. We can’t see how Life unfolds as a journey, and in this emotional state, it's hard to appreciate that each of us is on our own unique journey that we might not be able to comprehend right now. When we let go and see things as they are instead of how we want them to be, we can begin to connect with that feeling of ocean-ness and inner peace.Yes, we say to ourselves, this (situation) is here ….Still difficult… still unpleasant, but not a problem.In fact, what if this (situation) isn't a problem? What then?Ok, now imagine this. What if your entire approach to worrisome situations began to change and you went around thinking, “oh-and-this-too… it’s just part of life." Doesn’t that just blow your mind? It does mine.You might even extend this out and scan your life and ask yourself a bolder question. “Who would I be if I didn’t think that anything was a problem?”

And instead of all these "problems" out there, I realized the truth.

It’s just life… happening.

how this one sentence can change your Life

Can you relate to this post?


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