Day two of being complaint free

Life

Ok I’ll admit that I have already failed at being complaint free in the past 24 hours. I have had to start over countless times. I made the unfortunate decision to embark on this adventure the week I did my taxes. So…. yeah.

I am not going to beat myself up. This is all part of the process. Noticing that you are complaining is the important thing.

However, day two of this and I have had some empowering insights on happiness.

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday that led to the realization that we can choose to have a good day. I wondered, “can it really be that easy? Is it as easy as just making a choice? What about our emotions? What about how we are feeling? How do you get over negative feelings?”

As I thought I about this idea I realized that it’s true. It really is that simple. We can choose which path to take.

It’s not like I haven’t had this insight before.  I shared my thoughts  last summer in this blog post. This idea of choosing love is still a very powerful insight for me. However, when I had this insight last summer I attached feeling with it. I am a very emotional person by nature and I tend to easily get caught up in my emotions and the path that I choose is usually determined by my emotions. This idea that I can ignore my emotional state and just choose to “have a good day” is a new idea for me. It is an idea that empowers me and gives me hope that I can move beyond negativity and, generally, be a happier person.

I am reminded of the story of Buddha when he faces Mara. I am not an expert on Buddhist folklore but when the story was told to me I remembered it something like this: Buddha is sitting still and he is tempted by Mara (kind of the buddhist equivalent of the devil). Mara attacks him with arrows but the arrows are turned into flowers by Buddha and they don’t bother him.

There is more to the story but this part is the one that is very powerful for me and always sticks with me. Buddha changing the arrows into flowers represents the fact that we have a choice. We can choose to be hurt by the arrows or we can choose to not be hurt by the arrows.

 

On Mara

Thoughts and Opinions
English: Painting of Gautama Buddha sitting in...

English: Painting of Gautama Buddha sitting in Dhyana, unharmed by the demons of Mara. Sanskrit Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra manuscript written in the Ranjana script. Nalanda, Bihar, India. Circa 700-1100 CE. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night at my Sangha we had a guest speaker talk about the story of Budda. I have heard the story many times and seem to get something new from each listen or reading (this video is excellent if you are interested in learning about his story, btw).  This time, the part of the story that really stuck out was Buddha’s encounter with Mara as he was sitting under the Bodhi tree:

During the night, he was visited by Mara, the evil one, who tried to tempt him away from his virtuous path. First he sent his beautiful daughters to lure Gautama into pleasure. Next he sent bolts of lightning, wind and heavy rain. Last he sent his demonic armies with weapons and flaming rocks. One by one, Gautama met the armies and defeated them with his virtue. (From http://online.sfsu.edu/rone/Buddhism/footsteps.htm)

There are many versions of this story. The one told last night included magical feats such as Buddha turning arrows into flowers as he sat still.

This is a familiar story to me because it is in the Bible. Jesus also has an encounter with the devil while in the desert, and he also rejects the devil’s temptations. The bible’s devil is evil personified. He is the devil. A real being that actually, physically comes to Jesus to tempt him. Jesus reaches superhero status by overcoming temptation from the devil himself. He does this by fasting for 40 days. We read this and we are made to feel that there is no way we could do this. I mean, that is the whole point. Jesus is God and that is why he could overcome temptation. And that is why we need Jesus.

Mara is the the personification of evil in the Buddha story. Every other time I have heard or read this story I have viewed Mara the same way I have viewed the Devil in the bible. As a real entity that came to tempt Buddha (in the lore of the story, that is. I don’t actually believe in the personification of evil). HOWEVER, for some reason last night something just clicked. Mara is in Buddha’s head. Mara is Buddha’s thoughts. And Buddha was able to shut those temptations down himself, with his own thoughts. That is pretty powerful.

We all have our own Mara. And you know what? It is all in our head. As quickly as the arrows come at us, we can turn them into flowers. We can do this, just like Buddha did.

This reminds me of something that happened to me a few years ago. I had an episode of sleep paralysis. I was in that state when you are in-between sleep and wakefulness. I opened my eyes and looked above me and saw a demon sitting on Rafael and me*. When I looked up at it it slowly moved its head toward me and looked into my eyes. As I woke up, terrified, I thought to myself, “this isn’t real” and the demon dissolved into thin air like a cartoon character.

*this is actually a thing that happens – seeing “demons” in this half-awake state. See this article at WebMD.