Friday, January 10, 2014

Obstacle as Path, Obstacle as Goal

I learned many years ago to look at difficulties -- difficult situations, difficult people -- that arose in my life and see what I could learn from the situation or the person. There's always something to be learned in every situation, from every person. I made some of my greatest strides along this Path during two years I spent at one particular job, for example. I was fairly new to Buddhism then, but I knew enough to ask myself what I could learn, what the best response was to some difficult people in a difficult situation that I'd been asked to 'help heal' when I was hired.

How to do that? I'm not a healer, in any respect. But I'd been asked to help heal the pre-existing rifts within the business and I turned to metta, or lovingkindness, along with a strong awareness and intention away from making the situation worse through anger or hostility on my own part.  A deep awareness that I'd already begun fostering made this easier, brought the Path front and center in my own consciousness on a daily basis. I had to think before acting. I had to control my own actions and reactions. Merely doing that, and consciously sending thoughts of metta to others, helped the healing process for others and taught me a lot in the process. I had occasion to practice much of the same at a more recent job with different obstacles. Metta always works, although at times it may be difficult to sincerely offer metta to particularly difficult people! That makes it all the more important to practice.

This kind of response to difficult situations and difficult people has become automatic for me, refined by continued learning and experience.  I bring all this up because I've been facing a number of personal difficulties lately -- difficult situations and difficult relationships -- and have found that I need to dig a little deeper, remind myself what's important and what will move me further along this Path I'm following. I find that while it's easy for me to respond in a wholesome manner to one situation at a time, it's far less easy to do it when faced with a multitude!

But doesn't that make it all the more important? I think it does. And I think this is where and how I need to turn now -- have already done so, will continue to do so. Ayya Tathaaloka wrote a wonderful message this past summer on Obstacle as Path, Obstacle as Goal that really affected me at the time, and which I read again yesterday. I encourage you to do the same, as she says it so much better than I.  Much of her writing is so far above my head that I can't begin to grasp the full depths of her words, and that's the case with this one, but even though I don't grasp all of it, I grasp the central message. And that's enough for now.

What are the obstacles in your Path? How do you view them? If you find yourself viewing them as obstacles, try turning that around and viewing them as opportunities. Let go of the fear and stress or anger or whatever emotion may be accompanying the perceived obstacle, look at the obstacle clearly and see if there's a solution hiding within the chaos. Depersonalize whatever is happening. Know that the situation -- whatever it is -- is not permanent. It will change. I find that the kind of change I want to see will happen much more quickly if I simply change my perception -- from Obstacle to Path. Clarity arises. Peace and patience become more prevalent.

These things work for me. I hope they work for you.