I was talking to an acquaintance recently and she was bemoaning all the ‘stuff’ happening to her and in the world generally. I empathized with her, but relayed my favourite mental exercise in response. I hope this makes sense to you.
- ‘When you’re feeling as though everyone is looking at you, talking about you and passing judgements, imagine the situation as a big bucket of water’. She looked confused at that but I persevered. ‘Then think about sticking your whole arm in and splashing the water all around, swish it as vigorously as you can. Then take your arm out and while you’re drying it off, take a look into the bucket. ‘What happens?’ She asked. ‘The water goes right back to a state of calm; all the actions, the splashing and swirling is forgotten and it’s just a smooth surface.’ Shaking her head, still not sure about the story, she said. ‘What’s the point?’ I explained that even though it seems like everything is a crisis, mixed up and violent, it will all calm down once there’s no human activity to stir it up. That’s how much impact we make in the world. So anytime you’re feeling like you are the center of attention, or the center of people’s universe and that they are all focused on you, just remember what kind of splash is actually made in the end.’ She nodded. ‘This story is not intended to make us feel small, but to remind us that sometimes, when it seems like a storm is surrounding us, it’s just, as Shakespeare noted, ‘a tempest in a teapot.’