When You Find The Path Too Difficult To Travel And Are Tempted To Give Up


Every time I write and share myself through this blog, it takes something. Why?  I am clear that I am an ordinary human being and as such I face a constant struggle to show up and travel in life in a manner that embodies that which I speak-share here with you.  The more mindful (attentive) I become the more I notice the gap between how I wish you to show up and travel and how I actually show up and travel.

There are times where I wonder if I am deceiving myself. I find myself asking the question: will I ever close the gap between how I wish to show and travel in the world and how I find myself showing up and travelling in the world?

The other day I came across the following passage and it has given me the access to see the situation rather differently than I had seen it. I share it with you as it may help you with your stand (in life) and your challenges.  Here it is:

A student instructed to meditate upon compassion came to his teacher in despair. “This is too hard,” he complained. “I sit and try to extend compassion to the countless beings in the world, and all the time I find myself criticising how my neighbour wears her robes, how much noise my roommate makes, how much my knees hurt, and how bad the food is. How can I ever get beyond this?”

The teacher listened patiently to the long litany of complaints, then sat and pondered for a time.

Hoping for words of reassurance or a shortcut to transcendence, the student waited expectantly.

Finally, the teacher opened her eyes and said, “These difficulties are going to be with you for the rest of your life.”

– Christina Feldman, The Best Buddhist Writing 2006

It occurs to me there is wisdom in this tale. How have I interpreted it?  I have taken it to mean that what matters is that I walk the path that I have committed myself to walking. On this path I will encounter all kinds of challenges and some of the most difficult will be those that I generate myself – including leaving the path. The key is to be attentive: to notice when I am no longer on the path and get myself back on the path as soon as I notice I have strayed from the path.

Getting back on the path is not enough. Why? Because when I stray from the path I usually tend to make some kind of mess. And to workability, the mess needs to be cleaned up in a manner that restores integrity and workability.

Is it enough simply to clean up the mess?  Yes, and I do not advise stopping there. I have got value out of looking into the matter and learning: what happened, how did it happen, what might have contributed it to happening.  The reflection has helped me notice that I stray from the path when I find myself hungry, when I find myself tired, when I find myself stressed with conflicting demands, when I take it upon myself to fix the world for others…

Life Works If You Work With It


The story: what do you do when workability is compromised?

I was at my parents home – in the kitchen, cooking.  Just as I had finished cooking one of my brothers came into the kitchen to get some ice cream for his daughter. He opened up the freezer and struggled to take out the tray in which the ice cream rested. After pulling at it, this way and that, he managed to pull the tray out. That is when I noticed that something was ‘wrong’.  The tray was full of water that had turned to ice.  The ice was in the tray, on the sides of the tray, and underneath the tray.

After serving ice cream to his daughter, brother started to put the tray back into the freezer. I protested that the tray needed to be emptied of the ice. So I took out the frozen stuff, washed the tray with water thus unfreezing the ice, cleaned and dried the tray. Then I refilled it with the frozen food and gave it back to my brother.

He struggled to insert the tray back into the freezer. That was not surprising as the freezer compartment was all iced up.  Clearly a defrosting process had occurred in the freezer, water had formed, and then the water had turned to ice.  And this was jamming up all of the trays.  I noticed that one of the freezer trays was broken at the front, near the handle. I assumed that this had happened when someone had tried to get the tray out, was not able to (because of the ice), and had forced the tray out.

Standing there looking at the situation, it was clear to me that the integrity and workability of the freezer had been compromised. And what needed to be done was to defrost the freezer and thus restore the integrity-workability of the freezer.

What did my brother do?  He did what we human beings do when faced with a situation that requires work-effort and we are not up for putting in that work-effort. He found an instrument and start scraping off the softer ice from the freezer so that he could slide the tray back into the freezer.  Once he had done enough to slide the tray back into the freezer he stopped.

What is the lesson, the learning here?

It occurs to me that for many of us there is at least one significant aspect of our living that does not work well. That aspect of our living is stuck-jammed-unworkable in some important manner.  Just at the freezer is at my parents house.

Given that this is the case.  You and I can choose to do what it required to restore workability to that part of our living. The equivalent of defrosting the freezer, throwing away the food that defrosted and got frozen again, clean up the mess, and restoring the integrity and thus the workability of the freezer.

Or we can do what my brother did, do the minimum: deal with the symptoms and ignore the cause – the unworkability that gives rise to the symptoms. It occurs to me that if you and I choose to take the latter course, the short cut, and shirk that which needs to be done to restore workability to our lives then we can expect continued struggle in our lives.

It occurs to me that my life works when I work with it – when I work with the grain of life. It occurs to me that where I continue to struggle with life, it is highly likely that I am creating my struggle (my suffering) by working against the grain of life.