The other day I found this video of Pema Chodron talking about shoes.
In her analogy, she talks about walking barefoot over sharp stones, and wounding one’s feet, to the point that you think, “If only I could cover the whole world in leather – then I would not cut my feet on the sharp stones!” Of course, the logical solution is to wear shoes, and cover one’s feet – not to cover the world.
But isn’t this how we treat the world with our minds? “If only we had a different government… If only there was no crime… If only I did not have to sit next to that crying baby…” Very often, our solution to suffering is to protest everything that causes suffering, rather than deal with the thoughts about the world that cause us to suffer.
Chodron’s solution is to train the mind, using meditation and other practices, to walk through this painful world without succombing to suffering.
I like the analogy, but that is easier said than done. It raises some other questions. For example, should Martin Luther King Jr. have sat down and said, “My dream is causing me to suffer. I should simply forgive the injustice, and pray that God will help me feel better despite the racist violence”? His path was to take a stand and change the world, rather than simply changing his view of the world.
Perhaps it works better on the more mundane level of traffic lights, barking dogs and bad weather. There will always be petty things that bug me. Trying to change the weather and the traffic lights would be impossible. So, I need to change how I respond to them. I need to cultivate inner peace in myself, so that when I encounter sources of pain and frustration, I can greet them from a place of inner strength.
Again, easier said than done. But perhaps finding inner peace would still be easier than fixing the whole world and covering every last sharp stone.