MINDSET: This One Factor Is the Difference Between Defeat and Opportunity

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In uncertain times, how we cope becomes very important. The choices we make can literally make or break us. Beneath those choices lies a mindset. How we think creates a great deal of our reality. Not all to be sure, but how we think is the factor that decides whether we choose yoga and breathing to manage our stress, or alcohol & other drugs. Our mindset makes all of the difference between seeing defeat and opportunity.

I recently listened to a dharma talk given on tricycle.com by one Jon Aaron. The talk is divided into four videos, about one hour total, and discusses dealing with uncertainty from a Buddhist perspective. My purpose in this article is to summarize some of the points he made, as I believe these points to be useful in a daily application for many perspectives. I do not say that Buddhism is superior to any other philosophy. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if other philosophies contain similar concepts.

How well do you know yourself?

Mr. Aaron opens his talk by discussing meditation, a very Buddhist but not exclusive to that philosophy thing. While I don’t formally meditate, I do many things that are meditative, such as gardening, yoga, tai chi, and qigong. These practices help us not only clear the mind, but study the mind. How our minds move and respond to stress, for example.

By understanding these things, however we achieve them, we come to know ourselves. We better understand ourselves. To some philosophies, knowing ourselves is the highest endeavor. I learned a great deal about how my mind responds to stress through aikido and competitive pistol as well. Many are the paths to knowledge. Granted some paths are healthier than others. The point is to know oneself and one’s mind.

As the talk progresses, Mr. Aaron makes some interesting points

For one thing, he points out how the world falling apart is hardly new. He mentions what Buddha called the Five Remembrances, which are:

  • I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape old age.
  • I am of the nature to get sick. I cannot escape sickness.
  • I am of the nature to die. I cannot escape death.
  • All that is dear to me and all that I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
  • My actions are my continuation. The echo of the mountains is my life.

A more complete explanation can be found here.

It’s said that there are two things we can count on in this life: death and taxes

The Five Remembrances teach us that we can further count on aging, sickness, and change. In fact, I was taught in college biology that change is the one true constant. Everything changes, and that’s certainly very true of current circumstances. Our very social fabric is changing. Everything from the nature of work to the real estate market and public education is changing. But was it really any different when the Gutenberg press made books available to the masses for the first time? Prior to 1440, books were the nearly exclusive possession of the wealthy and the Church. Then along comes Gutenberg, and life changes dramatically. Check out the history here.

So everything changes. Everything has always changed. No living thing remains static. How we deal with that depends entirely upon our mindset, which Mr. Aaron discusses in a very subtle way in the last portion of the talk. Granted, there are many things happening that are beyond our control. If we remember Selco and his circles of control, we know that we can’t control government policy, the stock market, our job being downsized, or a number of other things. We can, however, control our responses to those things.

What helps us choose between yoga and alcohol? Our mindset.

Falling apart, the world is always falling apart, that’s the way it is.

Mr. Aaron discusses an interesting way to translate the Prajna Paramita, aka the Heart Sutra, which may be the single most revered sutra in Buddhism. The sutra goes like this: gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, Bodhi svaha! If you wish to hear it sung, there are many versions available on YouTube.

The sutra is generally translated as “gone, gone beyond, gone ‘way beyond, how wonderful!” There is a stack of books written about it, but generally, this means that we’ve moved beyond the false reality and into true perception. Mr. Aaron gives a different translation, however, from a monk whose name I didn’t properly catch.

This translation is: “Falling apart, the world is always falling apart, that’s the way it is. Hallelujah!”

I find this a very interesting translation.

Indeed, since when hasn’t the world been falling apart?

Was it falling apart during the Black Death, WWI, WWII, the Maoist Cultural Revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Rwandan genocide? Of course, those who lived through these things felt that their world was falling apart, just as we do now.

But there is the point of the Hallelujah. Mr. Aaron points this out as being extremely important to mindset. If we simply stopped at “that’s the way it is” we would be left with fear and depression. Because the monk included Hallelujah, we are left with acceptance of the reality of change. This single word also opens our minds to possibility, which allows us to see opportunity.

By seeing opportunities, we can choose healthy ways to cope and improve our situation. For example, choosing tai chi or starting a new business rather than drugs or alcohol. We learn to say “I can” rather than “I can’t”. Rather than all of the reasons something cannot be done, we see what CAN be done. By accepting the reality of change, we are uplifted and able to better cope with current circumstances.

Our mindset makes all of the difference

Our minds create a great deal of our reality. The decisions we make every day shape our lives. Do we choose learned helplessness and defeatism, or do we choose to acknowledge what we cannot change and open our minds to possibility? What are your thoughts on this philosophy? Can you see how it relates to preparedness? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Amy Allen

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  • I would agree to the Basic concepts put forth here, but a word of warning: Beware what you accept as “Things that you are unable to change”.

    So lets look at this: “I am of the nature to grow old. I cannot escape old age.”
    While basically true we all age, it does not mean that we all must “get Old”.

    There are many 50 to 70 yr old men that can physically out preform 20 to 30 yr old military recruits. There are many “old” people that can out think , the younger ones.

    What about; ” I am of the nature to get sick. I cannot escape sickness.”.
    Now everyone will sooner or later become sick with something.
    But how many people are sick every year with the Flu or Colds and yet some people go for Years without getting sick?
    So are you sucked into the trap of believing you must be sick every year? Or that you need to Flu shot to “stay well”.

    We also know we will all die someday (short of a Rapture or other divine intervention). But How willing you are to give up and die, makes a big difference in living.

    Many times, two people will face similar like threatening scenarios and only one will survive, because they refused to give up and die. So they over came the odds against them and lived.
    Where even people in less dire scenarios died, because they gave up.

    So beware in what things you decide that, “you can not change”. That Mindset might be the vary difference between LIFE and DEATH.

    • Gotta love ya, Mic! Not too many people are brave enough to nitpick and naysay a 2500 year old philosophy. Very few do it better!

      The Remembrances are very simple. They’re not open to being picked apart. They are timeless. Everyone gets sick, whether or not it’s every year doesn’t matter. Everyone will know illness. Everyone dies. Everyone ages. Everything we’ve ever loved will change.

      The one thing we agree on: mindset matters. I tend to avoid naysayers and nitpickers. Bad for health. Namaste.

      • Well said Jayne.

        Does not have to be illness, could be about near anything.
        Didnt get hit by a hurricane/wildfire/drought/cavity/broken toe(did that one myself two weeks ago) etc. could next year, or trip on the rug. We have all know some degree of incidents from mild, to life changing for the better or the worse. How we deal with it, knowing Murphy is always lurking, and having that kind of mindset is what separates those who will freeze and those who, while might say, “Well, this sucks,” and presses on.

        • Exactly! The point of the Rembrances is that these things will happen to everyone at some point in their lives. Those who can accept reality and move on are those who will see possibility and opportunity.

          Funny you should mention a broken toe! I broke my leg in 2007-fractured fibula-by slipping on the ice. It sucked but I sure learned how to adapt! I have a two story house and the cats don’t cook my supper. My clients otoh heard I was a captive audience and flooded me with work! I even had a bit left over after medical bills. Crazy!

      • “They’re not open to being picked apart. They are timeless.”

        more accurately they are meant to induce a free-floating mental state. in buddhism the cause of suffering is desire, and the highest state is total non-desire (nirvana) – these remembrances simply are a step towards that.

    • “they refused to give up and die. So they over came the odds against them and lived.”

      sample bias. you hear from this group – you don’t hear from the ones that refused to give up and got run over anyway, so you think “oh hey, just don’t give up!” and “these other people died, so they must have given up.”

  • Read, a very long time ago, a short description of “worry”. The flame won’t something like this… 80% of the things we worry about, will never, ever happen. 15% are things over which we have absolutely no control, only 5% we can affect to some degree. So, lives are being ruined by worrying about smoke and mirrors. Affect what we can, disregard the rest, focus on the here and now. Plan, but be willing to change as the situation does.

    • Robert Bigelow,
      Another well said and good way of looking at it.

      Hey, did anyone else notice the tatted up guy at the head of the article has what appears to be a beer in one hand, and a handgun in the other?
      You have to look close, but you can just barely make it out.

      • Yes I saw that! It’s like he’s choosing between the gun that can protect his life and the booze that can destroy it. The editors choose the greatest pics for these articles! They must have an incredibly extensive library.

  • Recently my wife was diagnosed with CLL. So my time with my wife has a somewhat known end date. That it’s sooner rather than later. Before we knew something was up, she began making short videos of the bookkeeping process for our Mom & Pop Shop. How to run Quickbooks, how/when to file certain forms to keep the government off our ass, how to do payroll, etc.
    Does she/we cry? Sometimes. We find ourselves waking early enough to watch the sunrise and being outside at sunset.
    We used to joke that “everyday you’re livin’…….. you’re dyin’.”
    Someone asked me once if I was afraid of dying. Nope.
    We can only control just so much, and it ain’t much. Yes, I’m a prepper. Controlling how I live is one of those things I control. Early on we prepped/planned on one of us not being around. So financially it not going to be a shock.
    Being in business for 30 years we’ve endured our share of ups & downs. The dotcom bust, 2008 recession, the Obama years, Wu Flu. Each problem was met with a calm, rational, response. Freaking out or hitting the bottle or self-medicating doesn’t solve anything and usually makes things worse. Defeat isn’t a word I use. Challenges, is a better word. Challenges lead to opportunities.

    • FLAPrepper1,
      Thank you for sharing that. Shows real courage, strength, brutal honesty, and a great mindset.

      Hat tip to you and yours.

    • Dude! Wow! First of all, my condolences on the CLL. That sucks! But that’s not a thing you can change. I admire what you’re both doing in the face of it. As you say, every day you’re living, you’re dying! I would add that how we die isn’t as important as how we lived. And mindset makes all of the difference!

    • I’m sorry to hear of your wife’s diagnosis. It sounds like you are both strong, resilient people with a great deal of character. I love how you’re making the most of small things. I wish you both the very best.

  • I’ve long ago made it a habit to comb through history, partly out of fascination and partly to see where there might be some wisdom of relevance for whatever time we have left. Here are some tidbits that seem relevant to today’s topic:

    “It’s better to die standing than live on your knees.”

    ― Emiliano Zapata (1879–1919)

    “It’s always something”

    –Gilda Radner (1946-1989) Saturday Night Live comedy actress, famous for her line above, which she also used to title her autobiography as she was dying of ovarian cancer.

    quote from Marcus Tullius Cicero, statesman, orator and writer (106-43 BCE)

    “Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.”

    200,000-Year-Old Denisovan Fossils Are Oldest Ever Discovered, by Benjamin Taub, 30 Nov 2021


    and finally, one more quote from Cicero:

    “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

    (Si hortum in bibliotheca habes, deerit nihil.)”

    ― Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC)

    which I find notable for having described some achievements of our author of today’s article.

    Back to that discovery of human ancestral DNA in a cave in the Denisova region of Siberia tells us that the struggle for survival and achievement has been ongoing for a very long time.


  • Thank you for this article. I found it very helpful in light of my current personal situation.
    Interestingly, it supports the sub-title of “The Hitchiker’s Guide To The Universe”, “Don’t Panic”.

    I am facing a dramatic personal change (eviction during Winter), and I was indeed paniced.
    This article helped me to embrace the “Dont Panic” and “Hope Springs Eternal” views.

    I have overcome my initial panic, and am now free to explore my opportunities.

    • Hay Martin,

      I’m sorry to hear about your pending eviction! That does suck. If my article has helped you, I am grateful.

      If you’re facing homelessness, there are a number of articles on this site that might also help. Hugs dude! And good luck.

  • Great article, Jayne!

    One must also have the will to overcome whatever obstacle stands in their way. “I’m going to beat this. I don’t know how, but I will win this chalenge!”

    I’ve read a few books and accounts of people who survived despite the odds. In some cases they survived while others with them did not. Where they fitter? Stronger? Smarter? Better prepared? More skilled?

    No. Often timed they less whatever than those they were with that didn’t make it. But they had more will to succeed. They refused to give up.

    If something didn’t work they tried another method. They had no preconceived notions of the right way. They accepted what was and dealt with it. They remained mentally flexible

  • That doesn’t sound like a correct translation of those lines from the Heart Sutra at all!
    The equivalent of saying “ this is a handgun. You use it by stabbing your assailant with its sharp edge.”

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