6. Remember Death: Impermanence
You’re going to die. I’m going to die. We’re all going to die. So when that person we just can’t stand does something that truly annoys us, stop and think: “When I’m on my deathbed, will I care?” The answer, unless we know that the person is really hell-bent on taking over and destroying the world, will probably be a resounding “no.” This little tip is so simple, yet helps ease many of life’s little annoyances.
We all know that we’re going to die, but it obviously isn’t something that we really know. Death is an abstract, far-away concept that happens to other people – the old, the sick, those involved in freak accidents. But that’s not reality. Young people die before old people, healthy people die before sick people, every single day.
When we focus on our definite future death (tomorrow? in a year? in 50 years?), a lot of the things that would normally set us off, literally, become nothing. It’s not that they won’t annoy us anymore, but that we’ll recognize there’s no point in wasting our precious time, breath or energy on them.
7. What Goes Around: Karma
People say, “What goes around, comes around,” or, “It’s his karma – he deserves what’s happening to him,” implying that people reap what they sow. This is not quite the Buddhist understanding of karma, which is much more complex and subtle. Still, while people seem quite happy to point out that others’ suffering is their karma, most are reticent to see that when they’re in a sticky situation themselves, it has also arisen from their karma.
Everything we experience – from the incredibly joyous moments to the depths of despair – arises from causes. These causes don’t simply fall out of nowhere onto our laps, but are created by ourselves. So, when we’re experiencing some awful situation, instead of letting anger take over, we can stop and think: where did this come from, and do I want to make it worse?
Karma is about how we behave compulsively, reacting to things in the same old way that we always have. If we understand how karma works, we’ll see that we have the ability to change our future experiences with what we do now – and here that means to practice patience when anger bites.