I snapped the elastic on my wrist. Hard.
“Gah! Ow! Good heavens! Was this any way to accomplish a complaint-free thirty days?”, I asked myself.
Normally, my friends and family thought of me as an optimist; outgoing, cheerful and positive. A mature woman with a candor and openness that most found refreshing. I agreed.
Yet lately, I had been feeling crabby and cynical. For weeks I’d noticed a certain black cloud pervading my thoughts, sprinkling – no, make that showering – my inner dialogue with negative conjecture, which was starting to show up in my outside voice.
Weeks ago I had begun immersing myself in Buddhist teachings, with an inner eye toward meditation, aiming at a more serene mind – and hoping that would translate into a more serene body.
Along the path of the quiet mind, I was noticing the chatter; to be expected, for sure. But the tone! Unexpectedly, the encounters were fiercely jealous thoughts, acidic judgments of world events, or vehement denouncements of my neighbour’s acts. Holy Nirvana, Buddha! Not very Zen!
In a hurried attempt at exaltation, I decided on the parallel path of “The-Complaint-Free-30-Day-Plan”.
You may recall Reverend Will Bowen, the lead minister of One Community Spiritual Center in Kansas City, Missouri, who, in 2006, challenged his congregation to a complaint-free existence. He offered them purple plastic bracelets, to be switched from one wrist to the other upon any complaining by its wearer. Apparently, it worked, and worked very well. The result was first a nationwide movement, then global expansion, including the website www.acomplaintfreeworld.org. There, folks are encouraged to, “Stop complaining and start enjoying life.” All right, now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!
Moving at the speed of enlightenment, I decided to forego the purple plastic and use my own wrist-band of elastic, and add a zealous “snap” with each negative thought or complaint. However, slowing down to the speed of the student, I became acutely aware of the advantageous use of Reverend Bowen’s advice of simply switching it from hand to hand. My very red and inflamed wrists would attest to that.
Along the Tao (translate: The Way) I also found that the little black cloud had diminished. Whatever was causing the dour showers had waned. Noticing is number one, after all. As soon as we notice something we want to change, we have taken a powerful first step, and our next steps show up easier.
It’s been days since my first steps on the path and I’m rounding a corner. I’ve realized an elastic band is not the answer to my finding a consistently positive frame of mind. I can admonish myself for my internal dialogue, thank you very much, and be more aware of my “outside voice”. Mindfulness, or awareness, is the ongoing pathway, to be trod softly and with self-respect. It is mindfulness I aim for, and the inclusiveness and understanding that shows up with it.
Allow me to quote a favourite contemporary – Harry Palmer, author of The Avatar Materials:
“What is the real work to be done on this planet? It’s to make ourselves more aware, to remind ourselves that our essential nature is nonviolent, and to increase the amount of compassion and cooperation on the planet.”
When we work on awareness, we allow ourselves more love and self-respect, which allows us to emit more love and respect, which allows us to be more tolerant and understanding of the differences in this world. That awareness lights the path, and we can step over the discarded elastic bands on The Way.
Sandra Chow lives and works in Campbell River, B.C, where she walks many paths.