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Lions Roar : March 2013
It’s easy to see someone else’s verdict but difficult to recognize one’s own—and so we live within its confines. What are you telling yourself before you wake up? What is the inner verdict by which you yourself live? Do you, like me, wait for the triumph that will decisively and permanently make you feel good? Do you, like me, wish for the success that will justify your colleagues’ respect? And do you, like me, find ways, different ways, from day to day, to banish most of whatever good feeling accrues? Last week my friend Caroline, also a writer, had a novel accepted after ten years of being unable to publish. Finally, she said, she would have the respect of the newer, younger faculty! But a day later, she told me, “I’ve decided that publication shouldn’t be so significant to me, because, if it is, then when I don’t publish I’ll feel bad. So I’m not going to let this acceptance really matter.” No? Was one day of joy after a decade of misery really too much? Most interesting of all is that the ver- dict presents itself many, many times every day. It’s the way you feel about how long you took for lunch. It’s the way you feel after chatting with a colleague right outside the office, as you turn and begin walking away, up the pavement. To free yourself of your verdict, you must first know what it is. Ask yourself: what is my verdict? Notice it whenever it appears. Here is your old jailor, your old fate. Shall you bring it a drink and a hassock on which to rest its feet? If it’s true, as Hamlet says (echoing Montaigne, a favorite philosopher of Shakespeare’s), “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” then it’s true you are inventing your world. It’s simple (although not easy) to make a difference in how satisfied you are in life once you discover this principle: you can change your verdict. Awareness is the first step, awareness of how we mesmerize our- selves. This is also the essence of Buddhist practice: to free yourself from the verdict that lives in you unless you wake up to it. ♦ I am writing here about you. I want to wake you up to your own tendencies. SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 26