文╱美國佛門寺研經班學員 Liz Whiteford
Before studying Buddhism, I spent a lifetime reacting out of fear and anxiety. My only hope was that adverse circumstances would change as quickly as possible so that the anxiety in the pit of my stomach would disappear (until the next time). I believed that the safest way to live was to take the least amount of chance and prepare for every eventuality. I was full of envy as I looked at other people who seemed to sail through life without any conflict or regret while every challenge became an obstacle for me. There are several principles of Buddhism that have begun to change my attitude about adversity: causality, Middle Way reality, tolerance, and impermanence.
To accept that present circumstances (effect) are a result of previous actions (cause) answers the previously unanswerable question of ”why do bad things happen to good people？”Now, I no longer ask ”why me？”From that point on, I have learned to go forward with the elements of the Eightfold Path so that I can develop good karma for the future. In other words, I no longer waste time wondering why adversity comes to me, but, instead, I focus on how I can create good cause now for a good future effect.
In the middle of an adverse situation, I try to practice Middle Way reality by neither ignoring the situation nor becoming totally engaged in it. I do the best I can to deal with circumstances without becoming dragged down into anxiety and despair. I'm not always successful but, now, I can observe when my mind wants to take me down the old, familiar path and I attempt to react in a different mindful way. I'm finally beginning to understand that through the practice of sitting meditation, which trains us to bring our minds to a calm, focused place, I can move my mind away from useless thoughts of anxiety and confusion toward a more serene state. And, instead of wishing for adversity to go away as quickly as possible, I try to tolerate and show patience toward it. I no longer see adversity as an enemy but as an opportunity to practice tolerance.
Impermanence has taught me that all things in life will change-sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. In the middle of a crisis, this helps me to accept and to know that it will eventually change or end whether by my actions or the actions of an outside force. This has given me hope when, at times in the past, I had none.
Several years ago, my family moved to San Francisco from the East Coast where we had lived for many years. We intellectually understood that this undertaking would be difficult but we were not prepared for the emotional suffering we would face. Our jobs were not satisfactory, we had few friends, we missed the family we left behind and we regretted having moved so far away. Coincidentally, I found Buddha Gate Monastery only three miles from our house and, having wanted to explore Buddhism for a long time, I began to take classes and attend ceremonies. It wasn't long before I realized that Buddhism offers an entirely different way of approaching life and managing adversity. In a short while, I could begin to see how the principles mentioned above could be used to improve my situation. I am coming to terms with our move without regret, trying to be more tolerant of our situation as I know it will change, and being hopeful about the future.