How often do we jump to conclusions and make judgements without knowing all the facts? If you are anything like me, it is everyday and more than once. This traditional story illustrates our tendencies.
A Buddhist monk was traveling home on a narrow county path one evening. It was becoming dark quite quickly. Suddenly the monk spied something in his path ahead. Unable to make it out, he proceeded with caution. The thing was long, thin, slightly coiled. "Snake!", thought the monk and stopped dead in his tracks. Yet, this was his only path to get home before it was completely dark. The monk experienced a moment of fear and panic, "I must get home soon, before dark! But, the snake is perhaps poisonous. I’m stuck!" he bemoaned to himself. Having some fire making tools, the monk quickly fashioned a crude torch and proceeded carefully forward. Just as suddenly ‘snake’ became ‘rope’. Some previous traveler had obviously dropped a portion of rope on the trail. And, the monk could have easily passed by it without fear. With this realization, how quickly fear became humor, panic to peace and he realized had deceived himself with illusion.
Our mind makes up untrue stories about our experiences and creates suffering. We attribute reasons to others actions that are not true. If someone forgets our birthday we think that they do not care about us, when more than likely they were distracted by something else that was genuinely more urgent. Then we start to brood and make it into a very big deal so the next day when they call and say how sorry they are and wish us a happy birthday we are surprised.
What is the answer here? Taking a pause so that we can notice this tendency. Then we start to ask questions, to get curious about what is real and true so that we can get the full picture before acting on the situation. We can act in a way appropriate to the situation and avoid needlessly feeling hurt or hurting and upsetting others.