I had a Trigonometry Teacher Mrs. Bensey who always seemed to be happy and perky back in high school. When I asked her about her always pleasant demeanor, she told me her secret is to utter to herself almost as a mantra, “Who’s Gonna Care in a Hundred Years”. Now as an adult, no truer words were spoken. Think about an argument you had with a co-worker, your neighbor, anyone with whom you had a conflict.
You may one day go to your car and see a dent. OMG! you think. This is a crisis! But no, it is not. It does not mean that you simply don’t care at all or that you will put up a sign on your car window “Hit my car please”. Rather, you will take a breath, relax, and know that the dent in your car, and anything material will be gone, and so will you. Just ask yourself really why that dent is bothering you so much. Maybe you are so attached to your car’s beauty and now the dent shows like a series of white hairs on your head. But in reality, there is no difference before or after your car was dented. The dent incident will take care of itself. Either you will choose to fix it and then the problem disappears, or you will choose to not fix it and just ignore it, which is also a possibility. Regardless, your ownership of the car will change, and the dent problem in your mind will disapper. Hopefully someone will have left a note. Either way, nothing in your life has really changed. Only your perception of how your car ought to look has changed.
If you are crushed and depressed over the dent in your car, then you are again creating your own sense of misery. Picture your car ten years from now, when rust and the elements have corroded the metal. As my teacher told me, picture your car in a hundred years, when it is just a piece of metal rusting in an auto compound. If you did not fix the dent, you would not even notice it anymore on your car in the background of all the natural corrosion after a few years have passed.
Take a moment of all the times back in your life when someone broke or someone dented something that you “possessed”. Now come back to the present. How many of those things still bother you? Chances are, you forgot about nearly all of them. But in that past moment, you may have cursed, had your blood pressure rise, your heart rate jump, and your face turn red. But if you come back to the present, you’d know that it was for nothing. Because in the present, did it matter that there is a dent in your car, a scratch on your windshield?
Only your attachment with that which is physical is causing you all that grief. Even for myself, when someone dented my car which at the time was a sports car that looked expensive (and it was!) and I prized the appearance of it, I was crushed that someone would dent it and not leave a note. But now, I realized that it did not matter at all and that if I cared about a dent in a car, I probably should not have owned a car that I cared if someone dented it.
Soon after, I owned an older Honda Accord with a lot of dents already on it and it accumulated more. Then I owned an older model Mercury Topaz. Both did the job of bringing me from point A to point B. When someone once crashed into the side of it, because I was not attached onto the appearance of it, I merely shrugged my shoulder and then let the man be on his way. Because I was not attached to appearances, my calmness was not affected, and I remained at peace.
There was no emergency, no catastrophe, not even an “accident”. If I was attached even to the appearance of the older “not so pretty” cars, then there would have been an emergency: insurance companies, police, body shop repair estimates, maybe a phone call to a lawyer. So much hassle is created by your attachment to things. So choose wisely on what if anything you will become attached to.
The other day, I received a free Apple iPod from a promotion they were having with exchanging older generation iPods. I was delighted with the technology and the ability to put endless songs on it. And the iPod about the size of my thumbnail. And there were no batteries to recharge. Just a miracle. I was used to bulky Sony Walkmans that you had to put a tape cassette in it and it would take forever to rewind the songs or fast forward songs to find your favorite one. And it was large and bulky. This iPod was tiny, and it was in every way superior. And you could only put in one song at a time. And there were batteries to deal with. But I told myself that if and when I lose this iPod or if it breaks or if it gets stolen, I would not be attached to it.
It does not mean that I wouldn’t take care to lock it up at the gym, but if something happened to it, I wouldn’t care. Knowing I did not pay anything for it helps of course, but the key is to understand that I really do not “possess” this item. It is with me through a promotion and I feel lucky to have it, but just like a flower that I found to be pretty in the garden, I know that it will be gone someday.
Suppose I did lose it and freak out, then I would be creating my own temporary hell and that means that I would be believing in my own thoughts that there is a crisis when there is none. Except for your encountering an absolute case of an emergency like your house being on fire with your family inside, 99% of what you are concerned about is not an urgent matter.
Think of nature and how it builds and creates things on its own natural time frame. Notice that nature is never in a hurry. The Grand Canyon was formed one grain of sand at a time and Nature was in no hurry to complete the unbelievable task. If humans tried to do anything similar, then there would be deadlines, horrible stresses, depression, and all the regular human passions that would be associated with such a task. Everyone would be in hurry, and there would be tremendous human cost.