Bend…not break


Hello friends, as I have come to learn from my teacher-Thay- in our minds are feelings which flow like streams, sometimes you are delightful, other times you are irritated. They flow, these emotions. For instance, reading this piece provokes a certain emotion, it could be positive, negative or just an indifferent feeling. Everyone has the capacity to have a diverse range of feelings, from hyper good to super low, the question is: are you clinging to them as they come? Or are you allowing them safe passage?

Don’t get it wrong, I am not telling you to wallow in sorrow, or terrible emotions, I am merely standing on facts. Can you stop the ocean currents? You are like a man at the river bank, watching the river as it flows, so when you say “I feel this or that”, it is more like “I’m currently experiencing this feeling in my consciousness”, because the truth is that after a couple of hours, or days, or weeks, it will pass.
Feelings are actors who are auditioning, some are very good, so convincing that they distort facts, and on the other hand, you can see through the others. The problem with clinging to a feeling is that it passes, like water through your hands…this is why infatuation passes after some months, that is why you don’t have that crush on him/her again…

A certain scripture says, “be watchful”, that is, be aware because the same way happiness arises is the same way lust arises; anger, irritation, disgust all arise within everyone. Your responsibility is to be mindful, to come back to yourself, and breathe. Smile at the feeling, at yourself. Why should you smile? Because, breathing and smiling relieves your tension. Note that this is no dogma, superstition or religion. It is quite practical. When lust arises in me, I say, “hi lust, been a while, I know that you will pass”. All men can testify that erections are impermanent, they are not a twenty-four-hour thing, so please bury your konji story.

All conditioned things are impermanent…ALL THINGS, meaning that they will change, we need to learn deep looking into the nature of our feelings, what is the source? Breathing and smiling relieves tension, it enables you to look deeply. Your feelings could also be likened to seeds, everyone has the capability to do something bad, but more interestingly, everyone has the capability to do something good. Nobody is destined for a life of evil deeds, and nobody is born a saint. It’s just that some people have lived in an environment where good seeds were watered, so they look like do-gooders.

Question is, what seeds will you water? Despite living in an environment that waters bad seeds. Anger is there in your subconscious, lying there dormant, and when someone pokes you, they are watering it. What will you do? Will you allow your anger to grow? Remember that all seeds are present, so you also have the seeds of restraint, of patience, of compassion; I think these are the seeds to water.
how do you water this? It is through mindfulness…you breathe. And simply smile. And just be aware. Nonjudgementally. You do not condemn yourself for having such a feeling, and at the same time you do not bask in its light. It is natural. That is what is called temptation.

People stab each other, slap each other, shout at each other, because they haven’t learnt deep looking, they want to control others, they want to have their way, but when you ask them what they want, they are confused, they have forgotten what started the quarrel. Then after the deed has been done, after adultery, fornication, after stabbing someone, or after shouting at their beloved, they begin to apologise or blame the devil. Deep looking; “why am I angry?” “why do I feel this way?”. Most times we simply transfer aggression; a husband after a long day shouts at his wife at home, because his boss shouted at him at work. When the marriage collapses, you cannot hold your boss responsible, the family will blame you for being unable to manage your home, the children will suffer the pain of divorced parents, their concentration will be affected in school, then they begin to look for peace outside of themselves; they start with alcohol, then nicotine, then tram, then heroine etc. Dear friend, peace starts with you. Deep looking allows you to see from many perspectives, to see that everyone is suffering including the person annoying you

A scripture says, “all creatures are groaning for manifestation…”, a Great Teacher once said, “in the world you will face tribulations, be of good cheer”. This means that even in the darkest nights, you are still to breathe and smile, you are to manifest goodness, compassion, self-restraint, because the situation is impermanent. Breathing and smiling in the middle of trouble does not mean that you are nonchalant…oh no, in fact it is the opposite, it simply means, you look deeply. Get insight. And act accordingly.

I learnt this from my teacher, and I think you should try it too:

Breathing in, (say in your mind), “I know that I am breathing in”…breathing out, (say in your mind), “I know that I am breathing out”…breathing in, (say in your mind), I know this (mention the feeling) is impermanent”…breathing out, (say in your mind), I know that it will pass.

In so doing you water the seeds of patience, of compassion. Remember, by your fruits you shall be known… would it be nice to do something you would regret, because of a certain feeling that overwhelmed you. In Christianity, there is something called fruit of the Spirit, fruit of mindfulness; one of which is patience; but we know that there can be no fruit without a seed, you need to nurture the good seeds within you. Be aware. Like a palm tree in an African thunderstorm, bend but don’t break. In Thay’s words, “Breath. Smile. You are alive”. I will speak on gratitude next week…



Olawale is a young poet, peace activist, and universalist.

For comments and questions, contact him via email:





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