[ Stories from Dr. Yukari ]
Milton is a 6th grade boy who is a little shy and introverted. Because he is physically a little smaller for his age, he is not very good at outdoor sports including baseball and soccer. His mom often encouraged him to go out to play, but if he had a choice, he would rather stay at home and play games while hanging out with his cat Snuggle. In addition, Milton does not want to bump into Duncan who is his classmate and neighbor who always tries to push him around.
Duncan weighs at least one and half size bigger than Milton and he even has a fuzzy mustache. It was only a few days ago when Duncan accosted Milton and started to pick on him for no apparent reason. Towards the end, he grabbed Milton’s shirt by the chest and shoved him down. Duncan is a bully who seems to genuinely enjoy feeling superior to Milton. For obvious reasons, Milton hates being around him. Right now, school work is being done online but Milton secretly wishes for it stay online forever so that he does not have to see Duncan in person.
Milton spends a good portion of his time worrying about Duncan. He constantly thinks both day and night. “What should I do when Duncan bullies me again?! How do I escape from him? There’s no way I can tell Mom or teachers about him. He would become more furious!!” These were constant thoughts in Milton’s mind.
Today Milton noticed that Snuggle was limping on his back leg. The cat was injured and his fur was smeared with dried blood. It was Brutus, Duncan’s Doberman dog! Milton tries to reason the bloody injury in order to not have to go and see Brutus but he knew his curious cat will continue to go and visit the dog. Today, the dog attacked his beloved cat!
Milton and his grandpa helped to treat the cat’s injury. Snuggle is similar to Milton by being bullied by an oversized dog who is so much bigger and meaner than him. But after the treatment, Snuggle appeared to be relaxed and started purring as if nothing happened. Milton could not understand this. While he is constantly worrying about Duncan and his next attack towards him, how could Snuggle forget about Brutus so easily! Milton looked to his grandpa trying to find some understanding.
His grandpa responds, “Well, that is because the cat lives at present. You on the other hand, live in the ‘non-existent’ future when Duncan may bully you. That’s why you are constantly worrying.” Milton pouted thinking about how his grandfather does not get it. He thought to himself that it is not a ‘non-existent’ future. Perhaps Grandpa does not know how Duncan bullies me all the time!” Milton soon began to think, “what does it mean to live present?”
This story originated from Milton’s Secret, a children’s book written by Eckhart Tolle, a German born spiritual leader and a famous author of books like Power of Now and A New Earth. Tolle wrote Milson’s story to teach younger children through his grandfather’s voice that we only have this moment of now. This doesn’t just apply to Milton since most of us have a difficult time embracing the ‘now’. Most of us have grown up learning from parents, school, and society that we should learn from the past experiences in order to prepare for a better future.
Marcus Aurelius a Greek philosopher said, “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” He also said, “You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” It is true for Milton that, what really bothers him is not only the fact that Duncan bullied him before, but also his own worry that it might happen again in the foreseeable future. This also connects to a similar concept in the cognitive behavioral therapy where therapists help people to realize that we always have a choice on what to think.
When I went through a difficult time with relationships, I often blamed myself. Instinctually, the other person’s behavior whether it was good or bad made me think that it was because of what I did or didn’t do. I did not know how to separate a person’s behaviors from my own actions, especially when I was in a very close relationship with the person. But counseling and life coaching helped me gain a new perspective in order to separate “outside things” from my own pain. My therapist used to ask me, “Okay, that’s what the person did and said. But what does it have to do with you? How is it related to you? What are the choices you have to think about it?”
Buddha also taught us this perspective through a parable called Two Arrows. He said misfortunes are inevitable in our life similar to an arrow that struck us from an unexpected direction. It is painful and cannot always be avoided. But suffering shows itself with the second arrow because it represents our own reaction to the first arrow. When we lose ourselves through suffering, we did not know that it was OUR choice to suffer. Milton saw how Snuggle chose not to get bothered by Brutus the bully. Despite Snuggle being injured at the moment, the cat picked himself up and didn’t let the metaphorical second arrow cause him any more pain. The cat’s mindset allowed him to move on serving as a strong example of our own mental power.