I just returned from two weeks of cherry blossom viewing in Japan. This year, the alternating warm and cold days made the blossoms especially vivid and long lasting. They were beautiful. But, despite their glory and the delightful company of my granddaughter and my wife, I struggled for several days with a terrible mood.
My personal emotional climate includes lots of bad moods. Sometimes they arise mysteriously. Sometimes they’re set off by hunger or fatigue. Jet lag doesn’t help. My bad moods get the better of me and I don’t like it, partly because they feel rotten, but mostly because I’m irritable and unkind to the people around me. From a practice perspective, the interesting question is what to do about this. I usually rely on a simple practice. I remind myself that my bad mood is not reality: my bad mood is only a dark lens through which I am looking at reality. This sounds pathetically obvious – too obvious to mention – but reminding myself in this way helps because, after a moody couple of days, the dark colors of the world and its inhabitants look true and permanent.
One way I remind myself is taping a note to my bathroom mirror. It’s simple, deliberate, and very effective. My current note says, “Your moods are not reality.” I see this note many times every day. It works on a couple of levels. First, it reminds me what I’m struggling with and points to one way to deal with it. Second, it’s a broad reminder that I always have something to work on. That in itself is helpful.
Here are two haiku I wrote in Japan related to this topic:
Unlike this Spring chill,
my bad mood does not revive
the cherry blossoms.
On an empty stomach
even this lovely Spring day