What's your favorite personal horror story?
A bad break-up? I've got a great little story about a guy who was so angry after a break-up that he broke in to his ex's house, repatriated some CD's, took the toilet paper, and left a rotting fish in the roof crawl space.
My personal best of the moment is this little kernel: After working really hard, sacrificing a lot, and securing a place in a really big fight, I got kicked in the eye without throwing a single punch. My super opportunity ended in a opthamological KO after 10 seconds, flushing months of preparation and years of working toward this particular goal. Not cool!
Now I'm stuck watching bad re-runs of the episode in my head. Boom – the kick. Bam – my trainer telling me I should take up knitting.
So, now what?
Number 1 – Press STOP
When bad things happen we have a tendency to relive them. One theory holds that the instant-replay tape that rolls in our heads happens because our minds are looking for a solution. The Buddhists may tell us, on the other hand, that mentally reliving events is a means of reinforcing a storyline that, effectively, does nothing more than anchor us in the past.
Regardless, obsessively playing back an event in your mind is probably not pleasant, nor does it help you move on and accept what happened.
So what to do with the tape?
The answer is actually very simple: just press stop.
Do something else, distract yourself, focus on other aspects of your life. The only real solution to bad things like disappointments, losses, or betraysals is time. Your emotions need time to bounce back and the cut you received need to scar. Think of it like letting a wound heal.
While waiting for this to happen, act like you're taking care of an injury. Do not miss an opportunity to do little things that bring you pleasure – I'm thinking glasses of wine, TV shows, walks on the beach, chocolate or shopping. Be good to yourself and do not run too fast. Give yourself time to heal.
Number 2 – Human Resilience
Get some perspective. Human beings are very resilient and we are able to get over, move past, or process just about anything. There are people still living today who were separated in concentration camps. Child soldiers after fighting in African wars have started new lives. Genocide survivors from Rwanda to Sarajevo are busy making their ways in the world.
Extreme examples all, sure – but these examples attest to nothing else, if not that human beings can get past, over and around a whole lot. No reason to let a break-up or a disappointment stop your clock.
Number 3 – Learn From Getting Smacked
Mistakes are nothing if not good learning experiences. The Buddhist idea of Karma stipulates that, like earthworms trying to get around a cinder block, we keep on knocking our heads against a lesson until we learn what life is trying to teach us.
Says Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön: "A mess is a great place to learn. Up to you to draw productive conclusions from a certain negative experience.
If you feel like this particular problem is a painful déjà-vue, all the more reason to have a good long and hard think about what brings to this particular impasse. Depart from the idea that life teachers the same lessons over and over again until we learn how to cope. If you do not learn to handle this challenge NOW, you'll meet it again, surely, in time.
Number 4 – May We Live in Equanimity
One particular Buddhist meditation mantra goes: "May I live in the big equanimity, free from passion, aggression and suffering."
Equanimity means accepting what comes, good and bad, with a neutral mind. Feel boosted by an event or an emotion? Let it be. Enjoy it like you would a sunny day and then let it go. You own happy emotions as much as you own the weather – that is to say, not at all. Sings Dido: "My life is for rent … Nothing I have is truly mine." It's true – your home, your body and your loved ones: you own none of these. They are gifts to the universe and one day, you'll have to return them to their maker. This is the fact of the human birth we have been given.
Facing something not nice? Same deal. Think of the circumstance like a rainy day. Put on rubber boots and know that the sun will come out tomorrow. "Where there is shadow now, light will later come …"