“If you correct your mind, the rest of your life will fall into place.” —Lao Tzu
I am not a perfect person and definitely not a perfect parent. Just ask my two teenage kids. The horror stories they can tell of the moments I’ve screwed up could fill a library. As we all know, this last year began a new journey for the world. We still don’t have a “normal,” even though much of life is back into an ebb and flow. I stumbled across this quote in a Target bathroom of all places. Standing there washing my hands and humming “Happy Birthday” to myself twice so I cleaned thoroughly (COVID change in action), I saw a sticker on the mirror.
“If you correct your mind, the rest of your Iife will fall into place.” —Lao Tzu, Philosopher.
At first I laughed because the bathroom can’t be where people do philosophical thinking while washing their hands for the appropriate period of time. “Don’t be bored while you wash! Become a philosopher!” What I didn’t anticipate was the long-term imprint these words would have. A few days later, as I was struggling with my teenagers about their attitudes in life, Lao Tzu came to mind.
Suddenly I was the brilliant one helping them discover that I’m not the only one that alludes to the fact that we are in charge of our reactions to situations. Granted they didn’t seem to appreciate Lao Tzu’s perspective on being happy since I took away their electronics until chores were done, but parenting isn’t all wins.
Lao Tzu came back to haunt me personally because after my speech to my kids, I was sitting down in front of my grad school schedule worrying. I was not even a little Zen in that moment when once again, Lao Tzu came to mind. I was looking at thousands of pages needing read, dozens of assignments needing completed and more discussion posts than I could count… but I wasn’t seeing the real big picture and I definitely wasn’t seeing my own responsibility in my reaction. All I could see was the impossibility of managing it all.
Then Lao hit me. In that moment I chose to recognize the long journey of graduate school and take the pile of work one page at a time with a new focus. Gratitude that I am getting my Masters and peace knowing the hard work will be worth it when I’m able to change the world in the future. Since then I’ve been able to view each assignment as a step towards my purpose instead of a burden I’m having to bear. So what in your world needs a mind correction? What perspective change will bring you peace, hope and purpose once again? Think about it and pay attention to the stickers in the Target bathroom… they are full of life lessons I didn’t know I needed.
Sarah Deats is a Behavioral Health Technician at RI International and the Hope Inc. Stories Inspiration Engineer.