Notice the little things

Do you ever have a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day that you can see no way out of? Maybe you just hunker down and wait for it to be over. Maybe you start avoiding people because you’re not sure you can deal with a conversation right now. Whatever you do, it can’t be pleasant. Impossible as it may seem, the best thing you can do for yourself is turn the tide. If you can’t control the events around you, you can try to control your perception of them.

There’s a great Buddhist fable that sticks with me when I’m having days like these. The story goes that a Zen master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, so he instructed the young man to mix a handful of salt into a glass of water and drink it.

– How does it taste? The master asked.

– Bitter!

The master then brought the young man to a nearby river and asked him to mix the same amount of salt into the river water. Once the apprentice had mixed it, he asked him to take a drink.

– How does it taste? The master asked.

– Fresh.

– Do you taste the salt?

– No.

After this, the master said

– The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains exactly the same. However, the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.

One of the easiest ways to ‘Expand the container’ is to notice the little things. It might be the chip in your coffee mug, or the way the leaves are rattling in the breeze. Maybe it’s the smile on a strangers face, or the sticky fingers of a small child. The more you notice, the bigger your world gets and the smaller your problems become.

You won’t go from distraught to delighted in 60 seconds, but you will slowly begin to pull yourself out of your bad day and into the big world.



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