The Buddhists believe that life is suffering.
While this might sound like a pessimistic view of the world, most of us would agree that day to day life isn't always smooth sailing. We all seem to have something to bitch and moan about but the vast majority of the time it's not about events of major significance. We find ourselves complaining and moaning to others about the trivial often as a way to connect with them (i.e. "I have problems like everyone") or as a way of gaining sympathy (i.e. "my life is so hard compared to yours, you really wouldn't want to be in my shoes") or because the minutia are not counterbalanced with enough meaning in our life ("all I do all day is put out fires. What a life. Woe is me").
But instead of constantly talking about how tough the minutia of day to day life can be, we can choose to focus on how lucky we are:
1. When I catch myself whinging about the mountainous laundry, I think how lucky I am to even have clothes.
2. When friends complain about the dilemma of what to cook for dinner, I remind them how lucky they are to even have good food to eat.
3. When I sigh at having to unpack the dishwasher, I remember how lucky I am to even have dishes to unpack.
4. When I resent having to fill the car up with petrol so frequently, I remind myself how lucky I am to even have a car.
5. When my kids are driving me up the wall I remind myself how lucky I am to even have kids, let alone happy healthy ones.
These 5 examples might seem pithy, but when you think about it, compared to the vast majority of the world, we live in a bubble of privilege. My trips to third world countries in my younger days are a sobering reminder of how fortunate I am and how I really have nothing to complain about.
This week I had a really big blow in my personal life. The news floored me, but if I was really listening hard to the signs the universe was giving me, I should have seen it coming. My friends reminded to swallow the bitter pill and "learn the lesson" in it. At first I was outraged by their response. I wanted sympathy. But if I find the positive in what happened, and learn the lesson, the outcome will be profoundly beneficial on numerous levels. When the blow happened, it made me realise how embarrassingly trivial the rest of my usual daily complaints were- the laundry, the dishes, the noisy kids, the incessant bills. But someone living in poverty or suffering terminal illness would view my recent blow as trivial. Relativity puts things into perspective. I could chose to spend my day whinging to all and sundry about umpteen things and focusing on all the negatives, but what will it serve me? Instead, I'm working on putting out what I seek to attract: a positive, meaningful life.
Ask yourself, how many times a day do you fall into self-pity mode over the trivial? Do you use complaints as the basis of conversations with friends? When you catch yourself complaining about the trivial to a friend, family member or to yourself, I challenge you to get into the habit of swapping it around and finding the positive in the situation.