By Master Sheng-yen, November 14, 1993
In day to day living, you may find it extremely difficult to settle the mind. It might seem that the only time the mind feels settled is when there is nothing to do. When something happens, either externally or internally, or when you encounter gain or loss, the emotions are encouraged and the mind becomes disturbed.
Most of us wish to have peaceful, undisturbed minds and to be able to put down attachments. We may even have ideas on how to accomplish such clarity and offer our advice to others. Yet, when personal adversity strikes, often all this goes out of the window and we cannot settle our minds whatever we do
Recently, I visited Arizona and noticed that much of the vegetation in the desert had needles instead of leaves. Small plants had little needles, big ones had large needles. Even some of the flowers had needles. Someone told me they serve as protection from the heat of the sun by reducing the amount of evaporation suffered by the plants. The primary purpose was not to hurt anyone. I tell you this story because we too have our needles and thorns. We need not think of them as weapons to hurt others but rather as a device to protect or conserve energy.
If you become disturbed, unbalanced, vexed or angry every time you encounter adversity you will undoubtedly lose a lot of energy. If you think others are wrong or the situation is wrong and you strive to avoid, reject or fix it, you will become unbalanced or distressed. Yet, before you fix it, you have already hurt yourself. First you are hurt by others, bad enough, but then you hurt yourself more by generating and clinging to negative reactions. So you receive damage twice, or even more often as the cycle repeats.
On the other hand, if you maintain a balanced mind then there is only the first level of damage and you no longer add damage on top of damage. Better yet, you may reach a point where you no longer view the situation as bad at all. One of the reasons why we practice is so that we can maintain an undisturbed mind at all times.
People seem to create more problems than they resolve. People who create problems have distressed minds. To them everything is problematic, and in dealing with their problems they inadvertently create even more of them. Notice how, in a traffic jam, some people lean on their horns even though they know it will not make the cars move faster, and then others honk their horns because the first honkers are annoying them. In the end everyone simply adds noise on top of noise. To me, the world often seems like this.
Have you noticed how quiet it is when the snow falls? It is because snow absorbs sound. There is much to learn from snow. When you encounter adversity, instead of reacting negatively, allow your mind to absorb and dissolve the problem. In this way you will be undisturbed and at peace. You need to discover how to practice in such a way that any and all problems disappear. This is an excellent method for daily life. Remember the peace that arises in snowfall and "cool it".