Doing it is easy, thinking about it is difficult

This came from a story Ajahn Brahm told during the meditation retreat. Back when he was a relatively young monk under Ajahn Chah at Wat Nong Pah Pong, monks are called on to help with construction work around the monastery. On one such day, Ajahn Chah instructed Ajahn Brahm and 2 other young monks to shift a pile of rocks and debris from 1 site to the other. He then left for a week to visit another monastery, handing over the construction leadership reins to the next senior monk. So for 3 days, Ajahn Brahm heaved and moved the pile from one spot to another. When they were finally done, they were sweaty, smelly and dirty; they couldn't wait to get showered and have a good rest.

Before they could return to their kuti, the senior monk in charge asked why they moved the pile, and instructed them to move it back. Ajahn Brahm was annoyed, but nonetheless obeyed and did the requisite hard labour. After another 3 long and hard days, the pile was returned to its original spot. Now, they can all finally hit the sack.

It was just then that Ajahn Chah returned from his visit. What happened next was absolutely true, although it reads like a Buddhist story. Ajahn Brahm has no idea if it was coordinated, but Ajahn Chah saw the pile and asked why they moved it back. And off they went, moving it back to where Ajahn Chah wants it.

By now, Ajahn Brahm's patience had worn thin.

"I'm here to be a monk, not a slave!", he muttered to himself, along with some cursing, in English of course, so the Thai monks couldn't understand.

It was then that a senior monk came over to Ajahn Brahm. He must surely have read his body language, for he gave Ajahn Brahm a piece of advice for which Ajahn Brahm is eternally grateful for.

He said, "Doing it is the easy part. It's the thinking that's hard."

What I thought was just a nice little Buddhist story about the perils of complaining, upon deeper reflection, actually had a much wider reach than I originally imagined. It is actually a story about the source of all mental suffering, which is fabrications. It is just that complaining is a coarser and more explict form of negative fabrication. Yet, even positive thoughts and frameworks come with a subtle underlining of suffering too, for we cling to them despite their approximations and instability.

This story was particularly applicable to my recent stresses at work. I was dealing with some people and culture problems, speaking with my team to understand the data points and root causes. It was initially very stressful and painful to hear such critical and demoralised feedback.

But just when the stress peaked, I realised that all this stress is self-induced through repetitions in my mind. The words all came through the screen. I was not physically harmed. If I view it from that perspective, there was nothing that was inherently negative nor harmful. The harm was all fabricated in my own mind due to heedlessness.

Of course, I still had to care about the problem and take action to solve them, but that was very easy compared to the emotional anguish I had carried along. So I dropped the emotional baggage, and lo and behold, it was much easier to think and act to solve the problems swiftly.

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