Nowadays, hordes of white collar workers go to the gym, do yoga, engage in weight training, or even undertake triathlons - any method at all to let off steam and relax after work. Some people are able to find temporary focus in exercise. It takes their mind off their worries, and they feel better after a sweat. This is because when you reach a certain level of energy output, your body releases endorphins which, for a short while, can ease your emotions and reduce your troubles. However, when you return to work or get back to reality, all of the discomfort again rears its ugly head — muscle stiffness, tight shoulders, throbbing head and body aches — possibly even accompanied by heart palpitations or tightness in the chest. Your physical symptoms attest to the negative mental energy and emotions which haven’t actually been released because their root causes haven’t been addressed.
There is a saying: “Where you find yourself squeezed is where you set yourself free; where you’ve fallen is where you pick yourself up.” It may seem to many that they’ve taken care of a problem or that a situation has passed, but they still feel fearful and overwhelmed. Whether it’s the environmental crisis, with many doomsday sayers spouting negative beliefs about the earth entering a new Ice Age, or other modern sources of stress like the intense interpersonal competition, suffocating pressure from debt interests, complicated but unavoidable interpersonal relationships, or physical and mental instability. For most people these things will negatively impact their quality of life. Our lives — flooded with news of terrorists, economic crimes, and other negative information — have been so thrown off track that it is now difficult to navigate. Most young people don’t know how to experience positivity or happiness. Tranquility has become an impossible dream. What can we do?
Training in awareness and shutting down the mind’s ego-driven navigation system are the only solutions. Most people lack awareness to the point of not knowing how to deal with what’s happening right in front of them. When difficulties arise, they panic, lose their wits and look for a way to escape. This is not healthy. Some vent to get rid of stress, but this is only a makeshift solution. Therefore, I often suggest that rather than wandering the streets like a blind dog, ownerless and vagrant, it is wiser to aspire to activate your inner potential in the face of hardship. That potential is awareness.
What is awareness? When calamity strikes, imagine yourself as a highly proficient receptionist. Warmly greet it as you would a VIP guest and welcome it into your mind to chat amiably to its heart’s content. When your interaction comes to an end, you can leisurely send it on its way, naturally observe it growing more distant until it disappears, and then be done with it. When the next mental visitor arrives, act in the same unattached manner, greeting it and then seeing it off. No matter how many visitors come in the course of a day, if you can receive them all with a natural, cordial and unassuming attitude, the feeling you’ll get — of being completely free and uninhibited — is beyond words.
I often advise my fellow students to elevate their quality of life to the highest level by adhering to these maxims: “Deal with it when it comes; once it leaves, let it go,” and “merge with the situation, with your mind completely undisturbed.” Apply this in a natural and unrestrained way in every aspect of your life until it becomes your anchor, and your mind will be healthy, strong, and beautiful. Please also remember that, in the face of a radical and unexpected change unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before, there is no need to be afraid. It is as if, while driving, the car in front of you stops abruptly: you get a scare and slam on the brakes. At such a critical moment, your heart will be pounding, but in a matter of minutes it’s as if nothing has happened. Therefore, don’t fret. The Buddha in your life will never give up on you, will not let you fall, and is forever guiding you down the bright and proper path. The key point is to regard all of your difficulties as a sort of training, as if you were going to the gym for regular exercise, which will improve your mental and physical health and fill you with energy.