I have a noisy upstairs neighbor. If you've ever lived in an apartment, I'd bet you've had one too. But amidst all the clanging and banging above, I realized that most of my suffering arises between the noise, when it's actually most silent.
If you think about it, most of our suffering takes place between the events that we think are the problem. When my neighbor stomps around, the moments of silence between the stomps can actually be more painful, because I'm impatiently awaiting the next one.
Watching this take place, I found this quite perplexing. How could it be that I was suffering more when it was silent, than when there was actual noise coming from above?
How could it be that in the loudest moments, my mind was quiet, yet in the moments of silence , my mind wouldn't shut up?
Think about how revealing this is, not just in the case of an upstairs neighbor, but in so many areas of our lives.
We dread upcoming events - meetings, conversations, family gatherings - and then when they happen, they're not even so bad. In other words, we spend most of our waking hours in misery, anxious about something that hasn't happened, or longing for something that already did.
It's quite eye-opening to watch my anger ebb and flow while my neighbor does gymnastics for hours on end. All jokes aside, it's interesting to watch how powerless my mind feels, how tense my body gets.
Is it pleasant? Not at all. But it is interesting. And if I relax, it can be awakening. In fact, dare I say it can be a lesson in mindfulness, in patience, in learning to watch my inner turmoil rather than get consumed by it.
There's only so much I can do to change an outer situation. I can complain, I can bang back, I can confront the neighbor, or of course I could move.
But at the end of the day, when none of those options are viable, what other choice to I have? Suffer? Or watch the suffering? Those are rally my only two options.
I better choose well.
Live with substance!