When people behave in a way that you don't think they should, there's nothing you can do. You have to accept individuals will behave how they want, not how you want them to. Likewise, when circumstances in your life are not going the way you want, you need to step back and pray to see what the lesson buried with in it is.
One of my favorite authors is Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön. She teaches the "middle way" as a path to discovering an inner awareness, strength and healing. Her book When Things Fall Apart offers this advice:
"The experience of certain feelings can seem particularly pregnant with desire for resolution; loneliness, boredom, anxiety (and i'll add here for myself, anger)....we want victory or defeat, praise or blame....we avoid the rawness by acting out and righteously telling the person how messed up he or she is....The middle way is wide open, but it's tough going, because it goes against the grain of an ancient neurotic pattern that we all share. What we want to do is move to the right or the left....We don't want to sit and feel what we feel. Yet the middle way encourages us to do just that. It encourages us to awaken to the bravery that exists in everyone with out exception...."
As a gardener, I've had to sit with this theory in more ways than I can count. You plan, and envision and prepare and get everything just right, and then the exact opposite of what you expected to happen occurs. The seeds don't germinate, the lettuce comes up but the slugs eat it, the color of the flower planted isn't what I expected, the plant dies, and there's no time in the growing season to go back and replace it....
The demand for resolution rears it's ugly head and there's nothing I can do except sit with it and allow it to be what it is. I have to just look at the lesson of frustration, loss, destruction or whatever is occurring at that moment and just let it go. It is what it is.
This last month, when I experienced attack and hostility on a scale unlike anything else I've experienced in my life, my initial reaction was to lash out, to tell those people how messed up and wrong they were, and to try to show them just how infantile they were by throwing anger and hostility back at them. I wanted to prove I was superior to them in every way by defending myself and proving how right I was and how wrong they were.
But a little voice deep down kept saying to me "You accomplish nothing by throwing anger back at them. Just sit with it, and learn the lesson." That's when the parallel between gardening and finding the spiritual path of the middle way popped into my head. The lessons buried in this situation started to bubble up into my conscious awareness.
I don't blame the plants or the wind or the slugs. I take every precaution to prevent certain outcomes in the garden, but in the end, it's going to do what it does. You can build a solid foundation by creating a healthy base for the plants-rich organic soil filled with compost and nutrients, plenty of light and water, and a firm pole to climb up or to support the plants.
But in the end, a plant is a living thing. Soil is a living thing. The surrounding environment is a living thing, and no amount of control can prevent nature from behaving the way nature will behave. All I can do is sit with it, look for the lesson, and apply that information to the next time.
Gardening forces you to surrender to present time. And being fully present is one of the hardest things for us as humans to sit with. Looking at this situation with the people who felt justified in calling me names and attacking me the way they did, all I can do is sit with it in present time, and try to be in the middle. Neither becoming aggressor or victim, but simply seeing that they will behave the way they feel they must, and no amount of anger or frustration on my part will change that. All I can do is find the humor, accept that their truth is for them, not for me, and move on. Engaging and trying to be victor just perpetuates the drama, and it is the drama that is causing pain.
Forces move in and out of our lives on a daily basis. Nature is in flux constantly, perpetually. It is neither wrong nor right. Just as I trust I have created a healthy foundation for the plants to bury their roots deep into the rich soil and grow big enough that a little nibble from a snail won't decimate the entire structure of the plant, I trust I am doing the same for my spirit. There's always another lesson around the corner.
Awaken to the bravery buried deep with in you. Practicing the middle way, whether it's gardening or fighting can be life changing in enhancing and deepening your spiritual health and awareness.