“Even though life is hard, even though it is sometimes difficult to smile, we have to try. Just as when we wish each other, ‘Good morning,’ it must be a real ‘Good morning.’ Recently, one friend asked me, ‘How can I force myself to smile when I am filled with sorrow? It isn’t natural.’ I told her she must be able to smile to her sorrow, because we are more than our sorrow. A human being is like a television set with millions of channels. If we turn the Buddha on, we are the Buddha. If we turn sorrow on, we are sprrow. If we turn a smile on, we really are the smile. We cannot let just one channel dominate us. We have the seed of everything in us, and we have to seize the situation in our hand, to recover our own sovereignty.
“When we sit down peacefully, breathing and smiling, with awareness, we are our true selves, we have sovereignty over ourselves. When we open ourselves up to a TV program, we let ourselves be invaded by the program. Sometimes it is a good program, but often it is just noisy. … Even if our nervous system suffers, we don’t have the courage to stand up and turn it off,because if we do that, we will have to return to ourselves.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Life is Hard
Yes, life is hard. But as the song says, “I never promised you a rose garden”. Life on Earth, life in the material world is rarely, if ever, always pleasant. That is actually a good thing. If life here was always great, we would have no desire, no incentive, to seek a better life, a life of spirit. But even though life is hard, we can’t let it get us down and keep us gloomy all the time. We have to seek reasons to smile, reasons to have joy. So yes, life is hard, but you don’t have to be hard. Life is full of sorrows, but you don’t have to be trapped in sorrow.
Regrets are another way that we make life hard. If we go on an expensive vacation, we regret that we spent so much money. If we don’t go, we regret missing out on the opportunity. When we reach a certain age, we regret that we didn’t do things when we were younger. We regret that we never learned how to swim, ride a bike, or ski. We regret that we had an argument with a high school friend and haven’t talked to that person in years. But there is no reason to regret it. In most cases, just do it now instead of regretting the past. Call the friend you haven’t spoken to in years. Learn to swim, even if you’re an adult already. I took SCUBA diving lessons and became a certified recreation diver when I was fifty-five! Life is hard if you are always regretting decisions of the past. Make it less hard by doing things now instead of regretting the past.
Smile to Sorrow
It is hard to smile when you are feeling sorrow or are in pain, yet it helps to do it, so we should try. Have you ever been around elderly people who want to talk about their aches and pains all the time? Not only is it something few people want to listen to, but they do themselves harm by dwelling on their aches and pains. You can try an experiment with this yourself—if you dare.
Stop and think about your body. Do you have any pain anywhere? A slight headache? A sore back? Knee joints aching? Find some little pain in your body and concentrate on it. What will usually happen is that it will get worse and command all of your attention. It doesn’t really get worse, of course, it just seems that way because you are paying attention to it. Turn your attention to something else and the pain will fade. Most senior citizens have aches and pains constantly. Most learn to ignore them and concentrate on other things. If you don’t push the pain to the background, it will drive you crazy.
In Spite of Pain and Sorrow
So don’t smile at your sorrow, find something to smile at to take your mind away from your sorrows. Don’t smile at your physical aches and pains, smile at something else, and let the aches and pains fade. Find things to be grateful for and think of them instead of your problems and difficulties. Life is hard, but dwelling on the hardship makes it worse. Plus a difficult physical life makes us desire a spiritual life more.