Wisdom comes from all corners of our lives. It is through connecting with the challenge in our lives that we learn and make progress. It is a well understand thing, that we learn by our mistakes but we also learn from the difficulties, the challenges and our suffering.
One of the biggest lessons we learn is empathy. Because we experience these difficulties in our life, when we see others encounter these difficulties, we literally know how they feel! Out of this, compassion is born, which carries with it a desire to remove suffering for the other person.
So we encounter days when we are frustrated, when we are in a terrible rush, when we are waiting for something, when we are worried and so on. These are all mind states. They don’t exist in the world around us. They are all created within our minds. It is because of this, we can work on them. It is hard work. They are emotions and they consume us at times.
As I say, wisdom comes form all corners of our lives. Believe it or not, this particular episode and the wisdom it introduces came from a muppet!! Actually a muppet from Fraggle Rock!
If you don’t know the story of the fraggles, let me remind you. Fraggles are small anthropomorphic creatures, about 2ft tall that come in a variety of colors and have fur tuft tipped tails. Fraggles live a generally carefree life, spending most of their time (they have a thirty-minute work week) playing, exploring, and generally enjoying themselves. They live on mainly radishes. The Fraggles seek wisdom from Marjory the Trash Heap, who is located in a corner of the garden. Marjory the Trash Heap is a large, matronly, but most importantly sentient compost heap. (Who says such things can’t exist. There are lots of studies going on at the moment to show surprising places in nature where intelligence exists. Even in slime mould) According to her rat-like companions Philo and Gunge, the Trash Heap “knows all and sees all.” By her own admission, she has “everything”. A Trash heap has everything!!! Very Buddhist.
Anyway, one particular Fraggle, Gobo, said a couple of words of wisdom –
“Everything is important. Either that or nothing is”
“The magic is always there, as long as we keep looking for it”
This second phrase really appeals to me. When I was a kid, I loved magic. I used to like it because I liked to know how it was done. Now, in these older years, I like magic because I don’t know how it is “done”. By magic, I mean the magic that we experience every day in our lives. The magic of how plants grow for example. Let me explain. If a branch is cut from a tree and left on the ground, the leaves will wither and die and soon the branch will be in a state that we call ‘dead’. But, science tells us that the branch was alive because of the water and nutrients flowing through. This allows the leaves to flourish and work with photosynthesis to produce sugars – energy. It is the combination of this that keeps the branch alive. But, take that ‘dead’ branch and pump water nutrients and sugars through and nothing will bring it back to life. Something is gone. That branch has grown from a seed, a tiny seed. Holding on to that ‘life’ and getting bigger. What is that life? Magic. That’s the magic I love. What I call slow magic. Not the quick Harry Potter type of magic that we seem drawn to these days, but slow magic that is all around us.
A second example of slow magic, that we are going to explore now in meditation is awareness. How can that be? How does that work? How am I aware? For that matter who or what is aware?
So the magic that is expressed by Gobo in Fraggle rock also draws parallels with Buddhist thinking.
See the magic. It is so easy in this world we live in to see the negatives. Of course, us humans have evolved to be like this with our negativity bias so it really isn’t surprising that we behave in this way. But actually, the magic is in the noticing. It is possible to pursue positive thoughts only but this can feel a little artificial and even self-indulgent. If we can develop a habit of watching and noticing our minds behaviour, then we can start to see how the negative influences don’t really affect us. A lot of our negativity comes from watching the news. We see the terrible things that happen in other parts of the world and this brings us down. When we feel like this, we lose our energy or we become angry and bitter.
Actually, the Buddhist path encourages us to become compassionate, energetic creatures. Compassion is made up of a couple of primary areas. Firstly empathy. We have to genuinely feel and understand the suffering in others. But if we just have this, we are right back to square one with the negativity bias, feeling all the suffering in the world. This brings us down and depletes our energy. So we must bring in the second aspect which is to introduce an intention for change. We may feel we can’t change anything, that we can’t solve the worlds problems. But we need to bring in a desire to help and reduce suffering within the realm of influence that we have. Here, we can definitely make a difference. By offering out positivity, love, friendship and helping people where we can with their challenges. This brings a positive energy into our own hearts. This is the Buddhist way. To send those ripples of compassion out across the pond that is our world.
But in order to do this successfully, we need to find that compassion towards our selves. Here, we need to see the magic in our own lives. To develop a contentment with our life in all its corners, with all its challenges. So we start to look at the challenges and see how they affect us. We work on the tension that these challenges bring in directly. Learning to soften in the heart and the mind. Developing a habit of noticing tension when it arises and softening into it.
This is how we introduce the habit into our mind. By practicing in this way, we develop a habit of yielding mind. Normally when the mind comes into contact with conflict, it tenses and the body tenses too. Here we develop a habit of softening into the tension whenever it occurs in the mind and body. When we do this the conflict melts away. Conflict doesn’t exist in the world. It ONLY exists in our minds. If we can learn to soften to conflict, it will melt away in our lives. Melt the conflict away and there is only peace and compassion left.
The more we practice in this way, the more we start to see and understand the magic in our lives.
So we practice meditation and this will help us to bring the magic that clearly, a very wise Fraggle, Gobo, discovered in Fraggle rock!!