After a long hard day, in the fading summer light, I sat down with my fat-free yoghurt and a cup of tea.
My gaze fell to the large burnt orange rug in the center of the room and I was amazed at how bright and vivid the colors appeared. It was almost like new.
I realized that my knee, in my line of vision, was obscuring the grubby stained area that refused to shift despite numerous carpet shampoos, but I chose to ignore it.
I felt happy and relaxed as I enjoyed the toning shades and shapes of the rug. Normally my attention is drawn straight to the grubby section and I feel a bit of tension in my mind when I think “I really must look out for a new one in the sales”. Even when a visitor compliments the rug I usually reply ” Thanks, it used to be really nice but I ought to replace it as it is a bit grubby now”, my mind always focusing on the faults, rather than the lovely colors and shapes.
I realized that if I could view everyone I met in the same way as I was viewing the rug right now, I would feel more open and relaxed, enjoying their good qualities rather than being drawn to focus on their ‘faults’.
As I relaxed and enjoyed the rug, I realised all this was dependent on my mind, I could choose whether to have a tight uncomfortable mind (looking at the grubby patch) or a light relaxed mind (enjoying the beautiful colors), depending on whether I focus on its positive or negative qualities, which in themselves depended on what I labelled with the words ‘positive’ or ‘negative’, again a matter of choice. So I could make a choice depending on the outcome I desired; a grouchy negative mind, or a positive relaxed happy mind.
‘Aha’, you may say, ‘the rug only looked that way due to the fading summer light, it wouldn’t look that way with ‘proper’ lighting’. So then I considered what is ‘proper’ lighting? Bright sunshine is ‘proper’ light, but similarly, morning light, evening light and cloudy daylight are also ‘proper’ light, so the rugs appearance is dependent on the type of light it is viewed in as well as the positive or negative state of my mind, so therefore the rug is neither inherently beautiful or inherently tatty from its own side, but dependent on various factors.
Similarly the people we meet everyday are neither inherently wonderful or inherently awful from their own side. How they appear to us at any one moment depends on the state of our mind. If we wake up grumpy, how easy is it to find fault with our partner? Even wonder what we ever saw in them? Yet a few hours later when our mind is more positive or happy don’t we find them so wonderful? We judge people based on the state of our mind at any one time and this fickle mind forms all our opinions, which we cling to fiercely, yet which state of mind formed these opinions? Is it reliable?
How often have you met someone and thought, ‘I didn’t like them at first, but now I actually think they’re great’ and vice-versa, all due to our changing mind. This mind of ours isolates us from others when we follow its fickle judgements. How people appear to us is dependent on our mind.
The people we meet are also experiencing various conditions, causing them to behave in varying ways e.g. the miserable bloke who makes no effort to move up a little so you can sit on the subway seat properly, may have just received a shock medical diagnosis. The waitress who has no time for small talk may have recently lost a relative. The conditions they are experiencing are causing them to appear unfriendly or selfish, yet they are not inherently so, from their own side. We may be viewing them in this way, while their family are hailing them as heroes for continuing to struggle on despite adversity.
So we cannot trust what is appearing to our mind to be solid and concrete, all is changeable depending on causes, conditions and our mind, which is apprehending them. If someone were looking at you as you sit reading this how would you appear to them? If you did a poll of everyone who saw you, would you agree with them? Unlikely because how you are appearing to them depends on their mind at this moment, how you think you are appearing to them depends on your mind at this moment.
We all know that how we appear to ourself depends on our mind at that point in time otherwise how would we have such vastly differing views of ourself ; ‘I’m really useless’, ‘I did incredibly well’, ‘I’m too fat’, ‘I’m looking good’,’ I can do it!’, ‘There’s just no point in trying’.
If we consider these points in relation to the people around us we can see how easily our mind is mistaken, projecting the world that appears to us and then discriminating against it as if it were fixed, solid and existing inherently, separate from our own mind.
Becoming aware of this opens our mind towards others, decreasing the isolation caused by our prejudices and tight fixed views and results in us enjoying a light relaxed mind….just like gazing at a magical burnt orange rug in the fading summer light 🙂
Tagged: buddhism., family relationships, happiness, Impermanence
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