“Have respect for yourself, and patience and compassion. With these, you can handle anything.” ~Jack Kornfield
I sometimes find myself smiling for no reason—a good mood, perhaps, or maybe a thought about friends and loved ones. What I notice is that every time I contemplate my own smile, it comes back to the thought of being here, now, and feeling for those around me with understanding instead of judgment and love in place of anger.
It is in the here and now that I find happiness.
Contemplate a tree: In the blazing heat of the summer, does it cry and complain, or does it sway in the passing breeze? In the deathly cold of winter, does it shutter and wither, or does it catch the falling snow from the sky and offer us pleasing scenery?
Now ask yourself the same question: In the crests of life, do you lose your legs and sink, or do you stay afloat with the rolling tides? Oftentimes we forget that happiness is usually a choice, and it is in times of need when we need to be patient with ourselves in order to stay afloat and choose to be happy.
Last year was rough for me. I felt manipulated by a (now ex-) girlfriend for a year before finally leaving her, was hurt twice again over the summer, and as a result, became slightly jaded. I was prepared to live the next year in solitude, not caring to find romance.
I experienced something we all experience. Heartache does not discriminate against any particular person, life, or event. How then can you stay strong, positive, and happy in the face of misfortune?
What I’ve learned is quite simple:
See the world, free of implication, free of self-deception, for what it truly is.
It is easier said than done, but once you have the basic mindset in place practice will eventually bear many fruits. So follow these general guidelines to find strength when dealing with troubles:
1. See the tree.
When you feel as though the world is dark and painful, look to what makes you smile, contemplate why it makes you smile, and finally hold on to the smile itself. And keep holding it.
Then, give the smile to something around you—say, for instance, a tree. Really see the tree in front of you. Contemplate what it has to offer—shade, scenery, oxygen, seeds—and then think about what you have to offer it—carbon dioxide, water, or maybe love to prevent it from being cut down.
Now take the time to wonder, what do you have to offer in that moment to other people and things, and what can you offer yourself?
2. Water the tree.
Imagine yourself with a pale of water, and offer it to the tree. Pour it onto its thirsty roots. Now, imagine the tree budding instantly because of your gift.
Apply the same concept to yourself. Offer yourself a gift of your choosing—a smile, a laugh, exercise, or a moment of relaxation. Now, imagine yourself growing happier, stronger, due to your own gift.
3. Let the tree grow.
Finally, patiently allow the tree to grow, no matter how long it takes. Similarly, allow yourself to naturally let go of the things that are causing you stress and desperation and remember it’s all okay. Instead of these feelings, nourish yourself with your gifts of love, smiles, laughs, and peace to help yourself grow out of the pain, no matter how long it takes.
As a tree needs certain nourishment, you do, too. But don’t let these things make you weary; do not press yourself for nourishment if you are not ready to give it or accept it. Instead, allow yourself to grow a little with every passing second, just as the tree does.
Over time, you’ll notice it is easier to do this exercise constantly. Give gifts and receive gifts, all in the now. Once you can do this, your smiles will be genuine and your happiness will shine through times of misfortune.
Patience and compassion not only aids others, but it also aids your own self.
Take these steps and go out in the world in order to see it for how it is in the second you observe it. Do not pressure yourself into feeling one thing or another, just as it is inadvisable to overwater a plant.
This simple observation of the world will make you strong and able to offer gifts to yourself and others constantly—no matter how small or insignificant you find them to be.
As for me, after a trying year and a half in a manipulative relationship, a summer of flings, and the utmost desire to be alone, I finally stopped and took a deep breath.
What I felt was a release from the heartache and stress—and what I found was love for life in everything I saw.
And, of course, right when I was feeling this strength and happiness in being alone, I met my current girlfriend and have been even happier. When you stop to see the tree, everything else seems to just fall into place.
Photo by Loren Javier