Three monks were out for a walk—one wise, old monk and two of his younger disciples. The older monk points at a large boulder and asks his disciples, “Is that boulder heavy?” The younger monks find it an unusual question. “Of course, that boulder is heavy!”
“But,” says the old monk, “only if you pick it up.”
This classic Buddhist parable was sent to me by my friend Henneke by her recent post. A timely reminder that we don’t need to carry the boulder of our worries on our backs.
The image that comes to mind of a muscular man who is carrying the atlas on his shoulders. The Atlas represents the world, and no man doesn’t matter how muscular or strong he is, can carry the burden of the world on his shoulder.
The boulder in the Buddhist parable represents our worries and none of us is strong enough to carry worries on our backs all the time.
Our world has changed forever right in front of our eyes in a matter of weeks. We are all worried.
Nobody knows what is going to happen. No one can predict how many lives will be lost to this pandemic or how many people will lose their jobs and for how long, or what kind of world we will find ourselves when we get to the other side of this catastrophe.
That uncertainty is causing anxiety.
How to control that anxiety.
First of all, you need to put the boulder down and straighten up.
Feel lighter? I bet you do.
But anxiety doesn’t. It doesn’t want you to let go of worry. You see Anxiety and Worry are best friends. They want to stay together. Anxiety wants you to keep carrying Worry so that she can keep living in your mind.
Rather than lifting the worry back on your shoulders you are going to offload Anxiety too and make her sit with Worry to keep her company.
How can you do that.
By painting the boulder.
Yes, that is correct.
You are going to go to your cupboard where you keep your paint and brushes, pull those out and you start painting it.
You see Anxiety is a genie, which needs to remain occupied all the time. It cant sit idle. t It needs its master to give her something to do a
Give it something to do.
What? you may ask.
That is right.
Creativity is the antidote to anxiety. Tell her to create something.
That is the reason the musicians all over the world are performing virtual songs. The painters all over the world are posting videos of their art from their homes. Bloggers all of the world are writing inspirational stories. Dancers all of the world are performing in online dance parties.
What can you get your Anxiety to do?
My friend Barbara would say, tell her to paint a Mandala. Pick a rock from your garden, pull out some paint and brushes from your cupboard and make ‘dot mandala.’ Here is how.
Elizabeth Gilbert would say:
…Create, create, create…” Don’t stop. This is the photo of what I created when I was facing some of the dark times in my life. When I was in the hospital waiting rooms, in funeral homes, in the middle of the night in despair, on airplanes far from home, while nursing a broken heart, when terrified, tired, when angry, when grieving. Constant creative response. This is how you keep the dance alive. This how you don’t get the stupidification to settle into your bones. Creativity is movement and movement is how we replace despair with a radical muscular engagement with life in life’s terms.
And this is what a young woman wrote in response to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Instagram message.
Creativity is how you survive trauma. I used creativity to form communication with my neurological handicapped mother. She couldn’t speak hardly any words due to damage to her frontal lobe. She passed her time in a nursing home being an artist. My sibling and I gifted her Empty sketchbooks for years and we received them back as gifts. I learned to draw, to communicate with her. Plus she learned some sign language and music was the best sharing our souls with each other. Creativity expresses our emotions and creativity helps us heal. Music, art, writing theatrics and so many other ways. We can escape and make our own world. We find out who we really are. I am grateful my family encouraged my art at a young age. I am still an artist to this day. It has helped me through lots of hard times.
There you go:
Create some music.
Learn to draw
Dance in your living room
Because this is how you get rid of worry and anxiety and thrive during a disaster.
Top Image Source: Daily Evergreen