There is a story about the Buddha, that I really like:
A man once came to see the Buddha to get help with his problems. He had heard that the Buddha was a great teacher, so he thought the Buddha might be able to help him solve his problems. He told the Buddha he was a farmer.
"I like farming", he said, "but sometimes it doesn't rain enough, and my crops fail. Sometimes it rains too much, so my yields aren't what I'd want them to be".
The Buddha patiently listened to the man.
He went on describing he had a good wife that he loved, but sometimes she nagged him too much so he would get upset, or tired of her.
The Buddha kept patiently listening.
He then described how he had good kids that he loved very much, but who sometimes would drive him crazy and disrespect him.
One after the other, the man laid out all his problems and his worries. Finally, he remained silent, and waited for the Buddha to speak the words that would have put everything right for him.
Instead, the Buddha said "I cannot help you".
The man was astonished.
"Everyone has problems", said the Buddha. "In fact, we all have 83 problems, each one of us. 83 problems, and there is nothing we can do about it. If we work hard and solve one of them, then a new one will immediately pop right into its place. For example, you will lose your loved ones one day, and eventually you will die. That's a problem, and there's nothing you or anyone else can do about it."
The man was furious. "I thought you were a great teacher!" he shouted. "I thought you could help me. What good is your teaching then?"
The Buddha said: "Maybe it will help you with the 84th problem".
"The 84th problem?" said the man. "What's the 84th problem?!"
"It's the fact that you don't want to have any problems", said the Buddha.
I love this short story. When I heard it the first time, it reminded me of my own life, of a story that I have experienced personally.
When I was 5 years old, I started having issues with my eyes. For about 5 months every year, around summer, my eyes were producing a sticky substance. It was very difficult to blink, because the natural lubricant that should have been between the eye and the eyelid had been replaced by this sticky substance. Normally, by early morning the white part of my eyes was already completely red. And I was in a tremendous pain for the whole day.
We visited several eye specialists, and they all said the same: "Sorry kid, we don't know what this is, we think there is a chance it might cease when you finish developing, but there is a good chance you might have it for the rest of your life."
They pierced my arms with 50 different little syringes, and told me I was allergic to the sun, dust, and pollen. They gave me both cortisone and antihistamines eyedrops, which I had to put in my eyes sometimes 60-80 times a day. Those helped a little, but were very painful. At night, before going to bed, my mother would put a special cream in my eyes. Every morning when I woke up, I had to find my way to the bathroom where I would have to patiently rinse my eyes with warm water, until I finally could open them again.
I was wearing sunglasses every day, from when I woke up, till when I went to bed. Outdoors, indoors, no difference. Going to the sea, or enjoying a normal life and be able to play outside with my friends without pain, was a dream.
It was like having sand in my eyes for the whole day.
I was hoping that by my 18th birthday this would pass, after all the doctors had given me that slight chance.
But it didn't pass. Instead, I went on to pick up some new allergic reactions, like sneezing like crazy for the whole day, which started happening from February till June, so basically around spring. At this point, I was spending more that half the year dealing with pain. And of course, I had to swallow several pills every day, just to be able to function. This was on top of all the other eye drugs I was taking.
Sneezing constantly stuns you. When your airways aren't clogged like when you have a cold, constantly sneezing is like being beaten with a stick in the back of the head. At some point you lose the ability to focus, you lose lucidity.
My 18th years passed, as well as 19, 20, and some more, until one day, when I was 25, I met a man who changed my life. At that time I was a young man, I had been fully developed for more than 6-7 years, and I had been dealing with those allergies for the past 20 years. 20 years spent yearning for rainy days that would take away sun, dust and pollen and allow me to catch a little break from my illness. I still love rainy days with all my heart.
Anyway, I enrolled to the training where that man was teaching. It was designed to help people cut through the lies and the illusions they had been carrying with themselves since the day they were born. The conditioning we all get from our parents; teachers; school mates; friends; society, etc.
One evening, the teacher mentioned something called stress reaction. He gave an example. He asked how many people, after being exposed to some cold on their belly, would quickly have diarrhoea. Several hands went up in the air (we were around 80 people in the room).
The teacher then said: "The next time you feel cold on your belly, instead of worrying that you'll have to find a loo very quickly, simply be grateful that you can feel that cold, because it means you are alive."
I was one of those hands up in the air. That sentence really blew my mind, and since that day, I've never had a problem with cold on my belly. Not once.
The trick is simple: something happens, and your mind goes "Oh no! now we're gonna be sick!" and that's exactly what you get. Your mind gets stressed, and the consequence of that is the manifestation of some symptom. But if you manage to replace that stress reaction with a positive one, like being grateful that you can feel the cold 'cause you're alive, then things will be very different. They certainly were for me, and for many other people who I met at the training.
The teacher also mentioned something about allergies. He gave the class a little meditation to do, in order to replace the stress reaction with a positive one. It's important to know that we can have a stress reaction to something, while being totally unaware of it. However, the beauty of this technique is that it seems to work regardless of us being aware or not or our stress reactions.
Back then, I had already experimented with meditation for a few years. I had read Castaneda, Coelho, Osho, and several other books about meditation. Results had not been that great, and I was quite skeptical, but after 20 years spent living with all that suffering, I was ready to try literally anything.
So I decided to follow those simple instructions, and try to reprogram my mind to replace whatever stress reaction there could be there, with a positive one.
And guess what... It worked.
I am now 44 years old, and I haven't had a single allergic reaction in the past 19 years. Sometimes I am asked if I'm not afraid they'll come back again. I'm not. And they won't.
So, thinking about this story, and the beautiful one of the Buddha and the farmer, we can understand that our mind has a tremendous power. It can create suffering, extremely powerful suffering. It can do that with us being aware of it or not, all the same.
When we reject our problems in life, when we decide that we don't want them, what we are doing is to create more suffering for ourselves, which will sit on top of the one we are already experiencing. Rejection is a form of attachment. We are attached to happiness, to our wellbeing, and therefore we refuse to accept that life is also made of suffering.
When the mind detects a certain stimulus, something we don't like, it tends to offer a reaction that is based on rejection, of non-acceptance. This is one of the roots of our problems, one of the main causes of our suffering. We go against the flow of life, and sometimes we even make it worse by adding thoughts like "I don't deserve this, I'm a good person", or "This stuff always happens to me!". We drown in self-pity, and that is a place in which we can get very confused. So confused that it might then be quite difficult to snap out of it, to turn things around, to come back to seeing the light.
I don't know what caused me to develop those allergies when I was 5. It happened on a late afternoon. while I was playing on the beach making a sand castle. All of a sudden I remember not being able to see any more. I cried for help, I couldn't see where I was going, I was calling my mother. It's something very scary, for a child, to go blind like that, all of a sudden.
But there are good news! Whatever the mind does, it can also undo! The mind is very powerful, and when we use it properly, instead of adding suffering to our lives, it can help healing. It can help remove all that additional pain that we are so good to create.
I'm not going to describe the meditation exercise here, I don't know who will read this, and I don't want to be the reason someone stops taking allergy medication after reading this, and maybe hurt themselves. That is not the point of this little post.
The point is: if you are in pain, if you are suffering, know that help is just round the corner. Investigate your life and your mind, start with the little things, something easy. Try to change the way you react to things, and base your reactions on acceptance, on love, compassion, gratitude. Get feedback from your true friends, those who can be honest with you. You will experience a tremendous change, and from there, the sky is the limit.
Within the system of Reiki we find a set of 5 precepts:
Just for today
Do not be angry
Do not worry
Be true to your way and your being
Show compassion to yourself and others
I think it's quite interesting to see how they can all be relevant to the story I just told you, but I think the one that calls me the most, in this case, is probably the third: Be grateful.
Be grateful for all the wonderful things you have in your life.
Be grateful for all the joy, the happy moments, all the love you ever got from your friends, your family, the people you love.
Be grateful for anything that brought a smile to your face.
But most of all, use gratitude to transform your life, and the way you react to it.
Be grateful for difficulties, they make you strong.
Be grateful for enemies, they are your teachers.
Be grateful for illness, it makes you pause and listen to your body and your soul.
Be grateful for every closed door, breakup, betrayal, attack.
Be grateful for all those things that apparently are so bad you can't even find a silver lining for. Yes, be grateful for those too.
Accept everything, embrace everything, become whole, heal. Just for today.