May 20, 2008

State of Tantrum

Somewhere I am sure I have read that one of the main tenants of Zen Buddhism is the ability to not become attached to outcomes. When we allow our egos to desire one outcome over another, we are forced to see the outcomes as either “good” or “bad.” We place our energies on achieving the “good” outcome, while beginning the process of suffering before the “bad” outcome has even happened yet. Just the thought or possibility of the “bad” outcome occurring is enough to make us start suffering. This suffering is determined by our need to control elements of our lives which our often beyond our control. When we realize that we have no jurisdiction over factors that we want to have power over we suffer even more.

Let me give you a concrete example. I am waiting for a job lead to either come to fruition and move from Doha, “good” outcome, or to take a job that will force us to stay one more year in Qatar, “bad” outcome. No matter how many times people tell me to just relax, and what is meant to happen will happen, I am already thinking about how upset I will be if we do not get this overseas job, so much so, that it is all I think about. I think about it before I sleep, when I wake up. I cannot eat. I cannot simply enjoy the little things in my daily life, until this situation is solved. I want to just relax. I cannot.

I practice Zen to help me get through times like this, but the awareness of how I should act and the way I am actually acting is compounding my frustrations. I know I should just relax and allow either outcome to be okay with me, but I can’t do it.

I suppose writing these thoughts down is a good way to meditatively work my way through the process, or perhaps I need to simply sit somewhere quietly and let go of my desire to move, but it is so strong that I cannot control it. I have placed too much happiness in the idea, that to save some of that happiness for the present seems disrespectful. People keep telling me that what is meant to be will be. But I want what I want to be to be!

I was watching TV last night and starting thinking about how easy it is for people on TV. All their problems are solved in one hour, while I have been stressing about my future since March. But I guess when it is all said and done; my fate can be summarized in an hour show as well. The hardest part is that I know what I should be doing. Enjoy the now. Enjoy your family. Enjoy your freedom. Enjoy doing nothing. I know all that, but deep down I really want this to happen.

Part of the problem is that for as long as I can remember everything in my life has gone according to my plan. I guess being blindsided by this episode is the way the universe is teaching me how to deal with not always getting my way, so like a petulant child I am constantly in a state of tantrum.

If you have any advice that doesn’t involve you telling me to do, what I just said I cannot do, I would appreciate it. I am sure that no matter what happens, I will be fine. I just want to know how to better deal with situations like this in the future. I am tired of the stress. I am tired of suffering for things that have yet to even happen.


  1. when i'm stuck in a corner like this and i know the outcome i want may not materialise, i force myself (however painfully) to picture myself in the unwanted scenario, as though it has already transpired. then i force myself to acknowledge that even if i don't want to, i CAN get through it too. then i tell myself that, even if it does happen, it won't last forever. then i try to find something positive in the negative. that's the part i usually fail miserably at. but sometimes by then it doesn't matter anyway: i'm already there, or not.

  2. Anonymous8:02 PM

    When I'm in a situation like that I try to get myself to think of what I can and/or cannot do, right now. As often as not there is nothing I can do, and as often as not I fail in accepting this. But I never cease to know that I am causing myself this pain, and only I can make it go away.

    Perhaps the book I am currently reading has the right of it. In it, wolves have a mind and thoughts - this is portrayed not childishly, like a bedtime story, but with a sophistication and realism that fits in with the book. One wolf in particular, Nighteyes, is amused at the way humans worry about that which has not yet come to pass. More than once he asks his friend, a human, to simply live the now. But in the end humans are doomed to visualize the future and worry about it.
    Perhaps with acceptance comes wisdom. Hasn't worked for me yet though...

  3. bz- you and i are much alike :) i haven't as yet figured out how to let go either. i have, however, discovered that i am a bit of a control freak over my life- but sadly, some things are difficult to overcome. ;) i am not good at waiting either. i can face an outcome- but waiting for an answer is the unbearable part for me. i generally keep myself as busy as possible to distract myself. sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't- but at least things get done ;)

  4. You have already in your short life, done things most around the world can only dream about. It's always your duty, to try for the best outcome. It's an inside, outside world.

  5. My ten cents! There’s no short cut friend and there’s no bypass. If suffering be the one waiting next in the line, willy-nilly you have to go through it … with or without those one thousand ‘inspiring’ books and quotes you have read.

    The day something goes seriously wrong, all of a sudden the homework of reading hundreds of inspiring pages evaporate fast, more so when time uncoils slowly. There’s no single appealing method to keep life motivated and still be able to carry yourself in the ‘it’s just another day’ way. You have to find your own method. Writing helps, talking helps, keeping your routines tightly packed helps.

    Though I understand it’s futile to really suggest anything but I would still go ahead and share my own ways to handle such things – I generally use two methods – very plain ones but they work for me …

    1. Associate a ‘good’ with the ‘bad’: It must be something rewarding (something you are really looking forward to) – the intensity should be enough to pacify the negativity to some extent. And is you wish you can add a ‘difficult’ thing with the ‘good’ outcome like say ‘not smoking for one full month’. Again the intensities should roughly match. This method fails if you avoid doing the ‘association’ after the outcome is clear.
    2. Just brainwash yourself – it can be one god damned piece of illogical imagery. Like one luminous body appeared before you in the dead of night and given you two choices – one is the ‘bad outcome at hand’ the other is something bogus you picked up, something which is far worse. And you selected the ‘bad outcome at hand’. This was your choice and you had a say in it. Making you a part of the decision helps. This one is little difficult and you have to keep on adding real touches to the ‘bogus alternative’ – repeat it many times in different forms until it looks like a real one.