A few years ago I was conned out of a few hundred dollars. Or at least I think I was.
I was on the subway, and a man started talking to me in a friendly manner. I was happy for the kind conversation while visiting a cold, lonely city. As the man spoke he told me about medicine he needed for his son and how he was having trouble with his VISA card.
Without even thinking twice I told him I would help him. I felt so honored to be able to be of service. I had this feeling of being “one” with the world in the moment I offered the money, that his child was my child and the money didn’t even matter to me.
Until about five minutes after I handed over the cash.
Then I started questioning my choice, and hot shame filled my body. I was suddenly sure I had been scammed. I called myself every insult I could imagine in my mind, and my energy sunk low.
I was embarrassed and angry at myself.
When I told my Buddhist monk friend this story months later, he explained:
“You made good karma when you gave the money, as your intention was good. But then you made bad karma with your negative thoughts.”
Little accidents are going to happen every day. These little accidents can be opportunities to grow compassion and evolve into kindness, or they can be opportunities to fertilize harshness and give ourselves more faults we need to forgive.
One of the best ways we can bring peace to our own life, and to the lives of the people we encounter, is to acknowledge that everyone is just trying to feel okay with the human life they are working through.
Simply acknowledging that this trying to feel okay is no easy feat is a great way to become gentler, kinder and nicer in all our interactions.
Small mistakes, accidents, slip-ups and faux-pas are just part of this human life package.
But somehow we forget this.
Somehow, when small mistakes are made, we blow the situation up and turn a small accident into a big, painful experience.
Minimizing this blowing up of little incidences into big problems is one of the best uses of mindfulness.
Being aware of how the mind shifts a small mistake into a momentous problem helps us to avoid following the same mental path in the future.
So what if we forgot to get milk at the store and no one has any for their morning cereal?
So what if we spent too much money on our cell phone bill again?
So what if we said something mean to someone we love and wish the words could be taken back?
So what if we broke our favorite mug, crashed our car or missed our flight?
These mistakes happen. And they happen every day.
The mistakes themselves are painful enough—without the mind making them into a bigger deal. There is already grief, frustration and hurt, but when we then create a mental attack for these small mistakes, we add more pain to a situation that really needs compassion.
Unfortunately, the person with whom we are usually harshest is the one to whom we are closest:
By calling ourselves names such as “stupid,” “incompetent” and “not good enough,” we compound the discomfort we are already experiencing from our mistake.
That is why we can make a choice, through mindfulness, not to hurt ourselves or others with our mental thoughts when small challenges occur.
When we realize we have forgotten our wallets at home, when we hang up by accident on a friend in the middle of a vulnerable story, when we bang our knee on the side of the table, we can just think, “No big deal,” or “These are things that happen,” and even decide, “No harm has been done.”
And by not hurting ourselves with mean thoughts about our own being or another’s, this will become true; no harm will be done.
No matter what little things happen to us, they will also be opportunities to develop our inner-being—which is a good thing, because little things are happening all the time.
Author: Ruth Lera
Editor: Toby Israel