Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Experiencing Setbacks and Frustration

Intention is important and sometimes given short shrift.  Actions frequently fall short of good intentions.  This is especially true when we are reacting, rather than acting from a pure motivation.  I find that my best behaviors and actions result from a good intention carried through to completion.  In opposition, I find that my worst behaviors result from reacting to a situation or the actions of another person. 

I write what I wish to learn.  I wish to learn the art of acting from pure motivation.  I do not mean this in a theatrical sense, though I was a thespian in high school.  If I could rub the belly of a genie and be granted three wishes, here is what I would request: 1) pure thoughts, 2) pure speech, 3) pure actions.  According to the Christ, the Buddha, and undoubtedly countless rabbis, these three can flow only from a pure heart.  Here are some universally wise words from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 6, verse 45: "The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks."  Many of us dislike black and white terms such as "good" and "evil", and I am notorious for getting tripped up by semantics.  Let's put the concept of evil aside for another day, and simply accept that it is an adjective used for lack of a better term.  The concept of a pure heart is found throughout Buddhist, Jewish and Christian teachings.  In Hebrew, pure heart is Lev Tahor.  In Hinduism, the concept is no less important: "The man who is pure of heart is bound to fulfill himself in whatever way he is taught" (Ashtavakra Gita, 15:1-2). 

I intend to purify my heart.  I intend to produce good out of the treasure of my good heart.  I intend to speak love and not spite or hate.  I intend to fulfill myself in the ways in which I am being taught. 

I do not possess a pure heart.  I do not possess a pacified mind at all times.  I produce evil actions out of my partly evil treasure.  I speak hateful and spiteful words sometimes.  I am often unfulfilled in the ways in which I am being taught. 

I set good intentions to open my heart to all of my family, yet I find myself succumbing to frustration and speaking hasty words to my parents, my spouse, my siblings and children.  I set good intetions to remain loving and calm while driving, yet I succumb to anger when confronted with other drivers.  Does this sound familiar?  Of course it does.  This is OK.  This is good news.

Assume for a moment that your personal faith is simply a ray of light shining forth from the universal sun of Love, so you are allowed to listen to all enlightened teachers.  One of them said this: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."  I think that's a statement that could comfort us all if we choose to believe it.  My level of present dissatisfaction does not determine my future contentment. 

I experience setbacks and frustrations on most days.  Some days seem to flow smoothly and I feel surrounded by peace.  Unfortunately, these days are fewer than the average of my days.  Many days I experience small or forgettable setbacks and by evening I am reconnected with peace.  On certain days, I experience setbacks that make me crawl under my covers at night in an attempt to slow my heartbeat.  I really do lie in bed some nights, consciously attempting to lower my blood pressure.  Obviously, those are the worst days.  Today was one of those days.  I know that YOU have those days as well.  Perhaps it's once a year for you.  Perhaps it's once per decade.  If you are here in human form, then I know you have experienced this. 

How do we handle setbacks and frustration?  Acceptance.  Today my son said to me, "It's OK, Mommy." Me: "No, it's not.  I'm sorry."  My son: "It is OK, Mom."  Understood.  He said it and he meant it.  No need for elaboration.  He accepted my setback, even though it affected him directly.  He immediately accepted it and moved on.  He is not quite three years old.  I thank God for him each day. 

Here is a short list of things that frustrate me or set me back: smashed food scattered around the floors of my home, multiple intentional spills of beverage, incessant high pitched screaming after repeated requests to use the inside voice, drivers who honk their horns when someone in front of me won't turn fast enough, drivers who tailgate, LEFT LANE DRIVERS ON THE HIGHWAY, exclusionary tribal and racial loyalties, family members who knowingly abuse their bodies through diet and alcohol, people who complain to me about their health and then criticize the lack of sugary treats in my pantry... really, the list is nearly endless.  Honestly, it is a random list.  It is true what the Buddhists say:  these frustrations are delusions.  It's a fun fact that we all suffer from such a wide variety of delusions.  The seeds of our anger are like snowflakes!  Poetry gone awry...

Smokers don't bother me.  How odd. 

Today, right now, I am accepting my unsavory reactions to the stimuli enumerated above.  My reactions are OK.  They are simply another part of my existence that I must learn to embrace with love and compassion.  It is damned hard to do that.  It's a long hard road, but I'm gonna get there.  "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."  Keep talkin'!  "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." 


  1. Lovely post. I understand all of it. Most of it involved your Ego... that little scamp!

    It is in fact all an illusion as you stated. The trick is to stop letting these things get to you and send Love thoughts out from your body all the time. It is very hard to do this in the face of what is in front of us most of the time we engage society...but I have found the more I do it the less I see the stuff I do not wish to deal with.

    This is the single most difficult task we all have...to live without judgement. Very tough. But if we try to do it...and keep trying and start our days with acceptance and love for all there is...it gets easier and easier.

    I deal with some very surly people in my work and when I do now I just say " Bless you and your path " and " I see the Divine within " and it changes my whole day. Love your posts and bless your good soul.

  2. Reid,

    I so appreciate your encouragement and wise words. I have also been reading your posts and finding inspiration in them. I believe that I will eventually be able to let go of judgment and I am grateful that I have that intention!

    Continuing to support you on your path,