Illustration by Mike Taylor

There is a Buddhist saying that can help strengthen your determination to keep your balance in any challenging situation. It says: “If you can do something to change the circumstances, why be upset about it? And if you cannot do anything to change the circumstances, why be upset about it?”

This saying is relevant to all situations in life. If you can do something to improve matters, wonderful. There is no reason to be distressed. On the other hand, there is certainly no point in worrying about something you cannot change. This advice applies when you seek to influence the way your government intervenes in others’ conflicts. It also applies when you are attempting to resolve other people’s conflicts. It applies when you yourself come into conflict with others.

In fact, this advice covers all circumstances in life. Most situations can be changed, but some cannot. Either way, there is no cause to become agitated or feel unhappy. If you really think about this, then when you allow yourself to become disturbed or unhappy, you really cannot say it is someone else or something else making you upset. It is you causing your own unhappiness. Why let yourself become stuck in an untenable position? In situations where change is possible, you work for change; where it is not possible, you accept that fact and work within the bounds of what is possible.

In short, there is no point to being disturbed and unhappy. You only hurt yourself: you do not fix the situation or benefit others. You just make it harder for yourself to access the wholesome resources that you have within your own mind. You just deny yourself access to your own noble heart.

From The Heart is Noble by the Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje © 2013. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications, Boston, MA, shambhala.com.

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