Overcoming Challenges

I was listening to some Buddhist sermons by this English monk in Australia, Ajahn Brahm today:

Check em out here

I love his most of his sermons because they’re directly applicable to everday life, and I like his corny British sense of humor. Anyways, something he said in one of his talks reminded me of an inner game technique I stumbled upon myself as a young man, maybe 18 years old.

I remember that things were going pretty well for me at the time in college and the things I was doing. So when a challenge (negative emotion) came along, it really stood out. I found that if I had a negative emotion, I could short-circuit the effect it had by immediately examining it consciously in order to discover its source.

Once I had figured out the cause of the negative emotion, there was one of two paths to take, depending on the situation. If it was possible to change the situation causing this negative emotion, I could do that. If, on the other hand, the situation was not alterable in any appreciable fashion for some reason, then I would change my attitude toward this situation.

  1. Feel negative emotion.
  2. Do not react to the negative emotion. Instead, examine it and determine its source as best as possible. If there are multiple sources, identify them one at a time.
  3. Either change the (external) situation, or change your attitude toward it, whichever you determine to be more applicable and efficient.

Ajahn Brahm mentioned exactly the same technique, which not surprisingly is a classic Buddhist practice, in his talk “Four Ways of Letting Go.” Essentially the technique I discovered on my own is a way of Letting Go.

An essential ingredient in the most subtle part of this process, changing your attitude toward the situation, is adaptability aka flexibility. At the time when I discovered this technique, I had been reading the famous Chinese spiritual-philosophical classic Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. I was fascinated by the description of the Tao (The Way (of the Universe and Life)) as “yielding yet strong.”

It is important not to grasp onto outdated modes of thought and habits, instead being adaptable to the present moment. Naturally, you do not want to be so flexible that you lose your spine, your assertiveness. Nor do you want to snap like a dry twig due to being too rigid. Be like the great bamboo tree that can be used to make a boat, but also survives hurricanes.

So stay in the moment and adapt to circumstances. I promise this habit will come in handy when dealing with logistics and in many other parts of pickup and your life in general.

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1 Response to “Overcoming Challenges”


  1. 1 Joker May 31, 2010 at 11:08 am

    Thanks for the link. Ajahn was just what I needed to hear tonight.


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