By Kellie Schorr
“The Buddha in the Corner” is a six part series based on the six realms of existence in the Buddhist Wheel of Life as they are found in everyday experience. In the Bhavachakra (Wheel of Life) there is a Buddha in the upper right hand corner pointing to the way out of the cycle of suffering.
It has been the day of days!
The coffee was perfect and traffic was light. Your project got a fantastic reception from your employer. Sun shining, lunch conversation sparkling, and—oh my gosh—five booklets printed without a paper jam. The salad was crisp and the kids managed to make it through dinner without dropping a drink, throwing a carrot or fighting.
Sweet evening breeze on the patio and a sumptuous bath with flickering candles on the rim of the tub bring this day of shimmering goodness to a close. Sighing with satisfaction as you climb beneath your soft, comforting sheets, your eyes suddenly pop open with one thought:
Tomorrow is going to suck.
Tomorrow the cream will be sour or the boss will give you an even harder project tied with a bow of unrealistic expectations and a co-worker who smells like a hamster cage. The kids are going to fight all the way to school, and the copier will definitely explode. Because there’s always the other shoe, right?
“Other Shoe Syndrome”—that nagging feeling that something bad is destined to happen after something good is the thief in our heart’s night that robs us of light, life, and joy.
For people who have been through trauma or were raised in dysfunctional homes where a parent’s mood can turn from warmth to wrath in the blink of an eye, other shoe syndrome is a coping mechanism designed to help you deal with sudden violent or frightening circumstances by preparing you ahead of time. It won’t keep a bad experience away, but at least you’ll be ready for it.
The problem is, while we’re busy waiting for that other shoe to fall, we’re missing out on all the good that lies before us. We are in the God Realm, but we can’t enjoy the feast because we know it’s never going to last.
The God (or Devas) Realm of existence is represented as a place where people have everything they could ever want: food, power, strength, joy, love, passion, phones with strong signals, and pens that don’t leak. Why is this a realm of suffering? Because even though we have it all, we will grow old and die, leaving this paradise behind. It’s also not considered a desirable place since having everything we want makes it hard to create compassion for others.
We all go through God Realm times in our lives. It’s rare for us to realize it while they are happening, but in hindsight we can look back and see “golden ages” (if only for a summer) when the world was aglow. Knowing the God Realm is going to end, how can we make the most of those days—or any day—without staring at the ceiling waiting for the other shoe to clunk us on the head?
One of the things we do in that anxious jagged moment we anticipate the pain, the darkness, or the disappointment to come crashing through the walls is hold our breath. Our bodies tense, our jaws stiffen, our eyes scan the horizons for signs of calamity and the bowstring of our mind is pulled as far back as possible, ready to launch an arrow at the first sign of trouble. We go through our days locked and loaded until exhaustion forces us to pause or pass out.
When you feel your body and mind begin to constrict over the imagined other shoe, remember to breathe. Take several good deep breaths—long luxurious ones—that loosen the mechanism and give you time to remember that something bad doesn’t have to happen, and you don’t need to be on patrol right now.
Breathe in the goodness around you—the love you can count on, the joy of the present, the silly jokes that come to mind or the beauty of the nearest tree, flower or art work. Breathe what you see. Breathe what you know. The phantom of “what if” is not a fan of pure good air and will leave as you take in what’s real and exhale what’s made of fear. Just breathe.
Stay in the Moment
Don’t be a time traveler. People who fixate on what’s going to happen in the next moment are unable to experience the good of the present time. The message of the God Realm serves to reinforce what we already know—everything changes.
There’s no causal connection between good and bad. A promotion at work doesn’t mean the dryer is going to instantly break (although it sometimes seems like every appliance in the house is just waiting for you to get a windfall). We all live in cycles not related to anything other than the wholeness of our experience.
Good can lead to better. Bad can lead to worse. Worse can lead to exceptional. We never know. The one thing we can be sure of is: If it’s bad, it will change. If it’s good, it will change. Right now, it’s like this.
The moment you feel that dread settle in your chest, pull yourself back into the present moment. Where are you? What is happening now? What does it feel like? Taste like? Take it in and let the future take care of itself.
Schedule Your Focus
For every thing (turn, turn, turn), there is a season (turn, turn, turn). Pretty much every sacred text (and a Byrds song) tell us this over and over; there really is a time for everything, including concern. What you need to remember is—you can choose the time.
There comes a point when you have to be aware and able to face concerns of the future. There’s also a time to celebrate with joyous gratitude. They are usually not the same time.
The day your daughter gets an acceptance letter from college is NOT the same day you say, “Well, this is going to bankrupt me. How will I pay for it?” You are going to have to ask that question. Hopefully you will ask it before letter day, or after letter day, but for that moment, choose to focus on her happiness, her future and your pride in her. There are other times to do the rest.
If there are concerns you need to face—financial planning, health issues, relationship collisions—set aside a time when you can sit down, breathe, and make needed plans. Don’t allow a good event to descend into a funnel cloud of negative imaginings.
Empower your mind with training that says, “I do need to think about this, but not right now.” Make a mental promise of when you will spend time on the issue so it doesn’t get procrastinated into a “Ball-o-Stress” waiting for the next good event to bounce into the picture. Time is a river, but you steer the boat.
For those days we suffer in the God Realm and live in the shadow of the other shoe, the Buddha in the corner points to…Presence.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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