There’s always a mood present in our experience. It’s amazing to think how the presence of a mood so completely shapes and conditions both our attitude and the way that we see things. It’s really important that we have straight vision, some sense of what our life is about, what it’s for, and what we aspire to. This vision or aspiration provides a compass when moods arise, tear us apart, and sometimes throw us into turmoil, irritability, anger, depression, or frustration. Various emotions arise and are often conditioned by minor things compared to the major importance of our vision, our life, what we actually trust, and what makes sense to us. Moods come along and push us in a different direction.
Somebody here at Abhayagiri once talked about an interesting juxtaposition. He came down (from the mountain) and went to the kitchen. He was feeling irritable and there was another layman in the kitchen who didn’t seem to be pulling his weight. This really affected the first man’s mood. Later on that day, word came to him that the layperson’s brother had been shot and killed in L.A. and he was struggling and digesting that news. Juxtaposing reality and perception—this man’s brother being shot and the first man’s irritation because the other wasn’t working well—puts into perspective how petty we can be. It’s human to get frustrated by external circumstances if things aren’t going as smoothly as we like or we’re being misunderstood. But comparing that to the importance of what life is for—we have this one life, it’s so important to us, and it’s not a game—we can see that our well-being is at stake here. If we let our moods and impulses take control and allow ourselves to act on impulse, then we wind up doing things that can really damage our long-term interests and the well-being of others.
So when these moods arise, it’s important do everything you can to get perspective on them and remember that they come and go. We should not blindly delight even in good moods. It’s okay to enjoy a good mood but if you get lost in it, then you’ll get lost when a bad mood comes around as well. There’s no way around that. You can’t realistically say: “I’ll take the good moods and forget the bad moods.” With any mood that you’re having, first train yourself in meditation, take stock of the mood, and remember that the mood is not who you are. As we chanted yesterday in the Anattalakkha?a Sutta, the mood is not us, it’s not what we are. When a mood arises, recognize the existence of it and see how moods bias you to act in ways that aren’t helpful for your welfare or for the welfare of others. That’s the reflection for today.