"Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!...
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond."
I sought counsel in a good friend this week letting him know that I’ve had some difficulties over the past few months. Not feeling myself so much, struggling with my own personal and professional purpose, lacking motivation and inspiration, and generally feeling quite down, I knew the time had come for me to take action.
I’ve been working hard to reframe the story that I have created for myself the past few months because it hasn’t served me well.
My friend opened up about some of his experiences with feeling the same way at times and that a constant go to that he holds close to his heart is a story about Buddha. He learned the story from Tara Brach and her inspiring book called Radical Acceptance. In the story, Buddha is constantly trying to be attacked by the Demon God Mara. Mara always sets out to hurt Buddha and makes regular appearances in his life by trying to cast fear, doubt, insecurity, hurt, hopelessness, shame and guilt toward Buddha.
This story is really a metaphor for the troubling emotions and fear that lives in each human heart. Rather than ignoring these negative emotions, Buddha chose to deal with them by inviting the Demon God Mara to join him for a cup of tea whenever the Demon God decided to make an appearance in Buddha’s life.
Buddha would make Mara an honorary guest and offer a cushion so that the Demon God could sit comfortably as they had tea. Buddha would sit with the negative emotions that Mara was trying to project on to him, but do so in a non-judging and undisturbed way.
By accepting these experiences with a warmth of compassion, Buddha chose not to try to fearfully drive Mara away. This made it much easier for Buddha to deal with these troubling emotions and fear in positive ways and understand that it is deeply part of the human psyche to experience fear and other negative emotions.
In our own lives, what’s most important to think about is how we deal with these emotions. In accepting these emotions and fear, we can actually create a more empowering personal narrative for ourselves that helps to better serve us now and in the future.
While meditating, we can invite our own form of Mara to tea with us. We can sit with these troubling emotions and fear that we experience in a non-judging way rather than ignore these emotions or try to drive them away.
Speaking to my friend this week helped to remind myself that it’s OK to experience darker moments and that when I do, there is definitely something that I can be done about it.
I’ve chosen to invite Mara to tea with me this week through the meditations I am doing. In choosing to look at self-doubt, fear, uncertainty, and frustration differently, it has quickly helped me to get back on track with my work and to feel a greater sense of fulfillment and kindness toward myself. The act of self-compassion can be one of the greatest things that we can gift to ourselves.
What troubling emotions might you be experiencing this week? What fears might unknowingly be present in your life that may be impacting the personal narrative you have been creating for yourself? How might you better sit with these troubling emotions and fear in a way that empowers you to be a better version of yourself?
Hope this blog post helps to give you some ideas to mindfully put into practice in your own life. Thanks for reading.
Neila Steele & Andy Vasily