Turn All Mishaps into the Path

James Siena, Outswam Nitrosamine, 2020

The mind and heart react according to their well-worn habits. Whatever habit of mind you have now comes from your actions and thoughts of the past (however unexamined or unintentional they may have been). Whatever habits of mind you will have in the future depend on what you do or don’t do from now on. The way you spontaneously react in times of trouble is not fixed. Your mind, your heart, can be trained. Once you have a single experience of reacting differently, you will be encouraged. Next time it is more likely that you will take yourself in hand. Each time becomes easier than the last. And little by little you establish a new habit. When something difficult happens, you will train yourself to stop saying, “Damn! Why did this have to happen!” and begin saying, “Yes, of course, this is how it is, let me turn toward it, let me practice with it, let me go beyond entanglement to gratitude.” Because you will have realized that because you are alive and not dead, because you have a human body, and not some other kind of a body, because the world is a physical world and not an ethereal world, and because all of us together as people are the way we are, bad things are going to happen. It’s the most normal, most inevitable thing in the world. It’s not a mistake, and it isn’t anyone’s fault. And we can make use of it to drive our gratitude and compassion deeper.

Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion, pp 49-50

4 thoughts on “Turn All Mishaps into the Path

  1. What a lovely new venture and venue for our community. I appreciate this post. I also found echoes in a poem currently affixed to my refrigerator.

    “Relax” by Ellen Bass

    Bad things are going to happen.
    Your tomatoes will grow a fungus
    and your cat will get run over.
    Someone will leave the bag with the ice cream
    melting in the car and throw
    your blue cashmere sweater in the drier.
    Your husband will sleep
    with a girl your daughter’s age, her breasts spilling
    out of her blouse. Or your wife
    will remember she’s a lesbian
    and leave you for the woman next door. The other cat—
    the one you never really liked—will contract a disease
    that requires you to pry open its feverish mouth
    every four hours. Your parents will die.
    No matter how many vitamins you take,
    how much Pilates, you’ll lose your keys,
    your hair and your memory. If your daughter
    doesn’t plug her heart
    into every live socket she passes,
    you’ll come home to find your son has emptied
    the refrigerator, dragged it to the curb,
    and called the used appliance store for a pick up—drug money.
    There’s a Buddhist story of a woman chased by a tiger.
    When she comes to a cliff, she sees a sturdy vine
    and climbs half way down. But there’s also a tiger below.
    And two mice—one white, one black—scurry out
    and begin to gnaw at the vine. At this point
    she notices a wild strawberry growing from a crevice.
    She looks up, down, at the mice.
    Then she eats the strawberry.
    So here’s the view, the breeze, the pulse
    in your throat. Your wallet will be stolen, you’ll get fat,
    slip on the bathroom tiles of a foreign hotel
    and crack your hip. You’ll be lonely.
    Oh taste how sweet and tart
    the red juice is, how the tiny seeds
    crunch between your teeth.

  2. This topic of mentally working with inevitable mishaps came up in my meditation group this week and one of our members shared this poem by Rumi that helped put it into a good perspective to me. I had asked the group to share how they deal with staying present when the present is a painful moment. All moments show up on our path…how do we best show up for them…

    The Guest House

    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 honorably.
    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.

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