Recently my grandson taught me a method that I find quite supportive with my practice.
It was raining and cold when I picked my grandson Dylan up from school. Instead of running into my arms he went running into the park behind the building. For twenty minutes he wouldn’t come when I called, and I was getting mighty exasperated. All the parents and children had gone by the time I was close enough to tuck him under my arm, march him up the hill and strap him into his car seat. I handed him a snack (to keep him quiet) and slammed his door. He was safe, I was ticked.
From the back seat Dylan’s tantrum subsided to a whimper, then silence. While I ruminated with regret for having allowed my temper to get the best of me, a voice from the backseat said, “It’s okay Nana, your bucket is just empty.” Compassion from a six year old—nothing much more humbling than that.
Piyadassi Thera says, “A disorderly mind is a liability both to the owner of it and for others. All the havoc wrought in the world is wrought by men who have not learned the way of mental calm, balance and poise. Calmness is not weakness.”
“Where did you hear that?” I asked him. He replied that his teacher says that sometimes when people get mad it’s because their bucket is empty and it makes them sad but we can fill it by being nice . . . then he offered me a cookie. No kidding! Nothing fills a bucket quite like compassion from a six-year-old.
My practice now is to keep this simile in mind; to observe how, when I let my attention mull on the negative (he shouldn’t, she didn’t, I won’t), my bucket empties and gives rise to dissatisfaction. Add one squabbling child or a harsh speaking adult to the mix and trouble will follow. Is this how I wish to spend my time?
19th Century American author and poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote:
It is easy enough to be pleasant,
When life flows along like a song,
But the person worthwhile
Is the person who can smile
When everything goes dead wrong.
Making the effort to notice when my bucket is beginning to empty is only the first step toward keeping it full and an effort I find worth sustaining. The resistant mind of ‘he shouldn’t, she didn’t, I won’t’ can then come into harmony with the truth that ‘he has, she did, and I might’. Balance is regained and satisfaction fills my bucket. This is how I wish to spend my time.
Fifty-nine and still there are lessons to be learned—fine by me if it’s from a six year old . . . and it doesn’t hurt that he is so damn cute.