In his work “On Believing In Mind” Sosan, the 3rd Zen patriarch, noted that we need to give up our expectations and reactions to things, people, and occurrences. When we do not, he writes,
A tenth of an inch’s difference,
And heaven and earth are set apart;
If you wish to see it before your own eyes,
Have no fixed thoughts either for or against it.
A tenth of an inches difference is the time it takes for us to respond to something that has happened or was said, the time it takes for us to pull a well-worn reaction or canned response from our greatest hits list and toss it out into the universe. There it goes! What will be the result? We don’t really even ask ourselves that question, because honestly we are not stupid. We know what our reaction will likely provoke, and on some level we maybe get some satisfaction from it. But not really. Because at root we are unhappy.
When we are able to open our hearts and our minds (and our bodies) to the world we become better able to identify those precise moments when we are about to ‘pop’ in response to something we encounter in our lives. And those are precisely the moments that we need to meet with meditation, with a pause, a breath, and an opportunity to react in the moment to what is actually happening, not what we think is happening based on the way we like to see the world.