A Life Long Prescription
Historically, I have had palpitations that are more annoying than dangerous, but at times they have seemed constant. I also have tachycardia that can startle me awake from a dead sleep. At one point, the heart irregularities were highly disruptive, so I sought out a local cardiologist. He was a unique character with slicked black hair and thick, black glasses perched upon a pointy nose. I think his nose constricted his breathing because every breath was a loud wheeze. Knowing I was an elementary teacher, he liked to talk about the benefits of using sea chanties (rhythmic poems) to teach reading. He performed many of them for me during the course of my heart tests.
After thorough examination, he concluded there was nothing imminently dangerous about my heart condition, which was a relief. He suggested that I medication would probably make me more comfortable and wrote a prescription.
But he didn’t stop there.
He carefully wrote out another, oddly depressing prescription.
This prescription was not for medication, it was for a prescription for life. It was a construct of Buddhist truths he thought I should embrace. Living these truths would ultimately reduce my stress and anxiety – and control my heart rhythm. They were:
All your friends will leave you
Your possessions will eventually be gone
You will die
At first glance, I was perplexed. Then I was incredulous. What kind of heart doc does this?!
Maybe I was dying and didn’t know it.
I’m not sure his peculiar remedy worked to cure my heart woes (a little medicine does that), but it clearly impacted me because I have kept that piece of paper for almost two decades.
I also understand it far better now that I am older and wiser.
I didn’t really get it back then.
When I first read the words, I was shocked. They seemed extreme, egregious. But I finally realized that accepting those egregious statements made for a happier life. Each one is an ultimate truth and understanding the inevitability of each one is called radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is a practice of accepting things as they are, not what we believe they should be or wish they were not.
Accepting that these extreme events will come to pass is far less anxiety provoking than worrying they might happen tomorrow. Once we can let go of anything that feels horrible and scary, we are free to enjoy life knowing it is fragile and fleeting. Our belief that we have to hold on to things, money, or people, morphs us into tunnel-vision creatures trying to control everything in our midst. Controlling, managing and trying to prevent inevitable truths render us exhausted, weak and disappointed.
This is a favorite quote my family likes to share (mostly with sarcasm – but colored with truth): ‘Every morning I drink from my favorite teacup. I hold it in my hands and feel the warmth of the cup from the hot liquid it contains. I breathe in the aroma of my tea and enjoy my mornings in this way. But in my mind the teacup is already broken.’
This quote eloquently describes two ways of living. We can either live with the idea that we are to protect the cup at all cost and live in fear that it will one day break or live relishing each sip from the coveted cup, knowing that it will one day break. Either way, the cup will end.
So, take out your favorite mug and fix yourself a little treat.
Radical acceptance is not easy, but you have a better shot of understanding it's profound truth when you pair it with chocolate.
The Busy Buddha
This cake cooking method is perfect for single servings in a hurry! It's also great because you can enjoy cake without turning on the oven.
FIND RECIPE HERE!
What advice about life do you remember hearing that has taken on a deeper meaning now that you are older and wiser?
What is your signature piece of life wisdom that you share with others?