What do Mangoes have to do with Being Late?

“These days we are caught in hurrying and forcing. Mangoes are never sweet now. Before they’re ripe they are picked and artificially ripened. It’s done because people want to get them in a hurry. But when you eat them, you find they are sour. This is trying to match the desires of people to get things in a hurry. To get something good, something sweet, you have to let it be sour first, according to its own natural way. But we pick them early and complain that they’re sour.”

~Ajahn Chah as quoted by Jack Kornfield in his book The Wise Heart.

Before recently, I’ve always thought of myself as a laid back guy. I can be pretty agreeable about most things, especially in regards to simple choices like what to eat, what movie to watch, or where to spend the afternoon. Though, there has always been one circumstance in wish I feel the need to control my situation, and that is my need to be on time (or early) to event or gathering with a start time. I get very unsettled when I am ready to leave and someone else is lagging behind. It gets so bad at times that I’m even upset if I am able to leave right on time, because I know there could be unforeseen complications that lead to my late arrival.

Like the kind of person that Ajahn Chah describes in the passage above, I want things when I want them and how I want them, and am willing to go to unnecessary measures to get them. The results, as could be derived from the story, are sour. I notice myself putting pressure on others, or working my self in to a panic over something that isn’t even sure to happen. Fear is a feeling that always has to do with a future event. I may feel nervous and fearful during the hour prior to arising at my destination, only to find that I made it on time. What a useless process! And it’s not even just the fear and anxiety that makes my life unpleasant, but also the fact that I’ve cause the other person I’m with to become nervous and agitated as well. It’s all down hill from there.

There’s a lesson to be learned here, if I am willing to accept it. First, I can learn to be mindful of my tendency to get worked up over the possibility of being late. Next, I can learn to accept and be present with the feelings that arise, without reacting to them in a way that spills out on to others in a negative way. And last, after recognizing and accepting the feelings, I can learn to examine them and see that they are impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not my self. In doing so, I can learn to let the negative feelings pass through my experience as a dark cloud passes through the sky.

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6 Comments

Filed under Mindfulness, Reflections

6 responses to “What do Mangoes have to do with Being Late?

  1. Sarah

    Yeah, I think that you’re tendency is to be EARLY to everything. I, in contrast, am pretty much always 5-15 minutes behind schedule. The irony of it is that the more pressure I feel, the more flustered I get, and the longer it takes me to catch up. I think we both need to learn how to just be “on time” instead of early or late.

    • Jackson

      I completely agree, and I think we’ll get there. I know this is an area I need to work on. It’s just so difficult to be mindful when I get all stressed out, and it certainly doesn’t help you stay calm. Oye.

      (NOTE: To anyone else who is reading this, if you haven’t figured it out, Sarah is my wife. She, more than anyone, knows that I freak out when I’m running late.)

  2. Jacks,
    Finally a new post! I totally relate; especially with your thoughts on fear. But what is doubly frustrating is when I think through these things and rationally decide that fear/anxiety is a waste of time but then end up in a situation where I give into the negative feelings and behavior all over again. It’s a slow, slow process. I guess like the ripening of a mango? Hee.

  3. Jackson

    Hey Joy!

    I completely agree. Rationally deciding to react differently to fear or anxiety doesn’t do much to help us. We have to actually practice releasing fear’s grip, which means being fully aware of fear when it presents it self and practice choosing a different reaction. It can be a frightening process, but I do believe that the practice can and does bear fruit (no pun intended).

  4. Excellent podcast by Erwin McManus of Mosaic entitled “Fear.” Give it a listen!

  5. Jackson

    Thanks, Joy. I’ll give it a listen.

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