To overcome our struggles, we may need less subtle, or less privileged, methods for working with our mind than certain kinds of meditation. We need to rely on other sources of help and support. For example, when you’re in the midst of a life crisis, it’s very hard to do meditation sometimes, isn’t it?

It’s easy to say, “Oh, just do some breathing, just do some meditation, just do some mindfulness, and you’ll be okay.” But the fact of the matter is that it’s not that simple. We need alternatives.

So, we sometimes need a little more tangible way of working with our mind. That is, I think, what Buddha taught as the notion of interdependence. The most accessible teaching that Buddha gave, in terms of working with life experience, is the practice of interdependence, or dependent arising.

Why We Need To Understand Interdependence

Dependent arising, or interdependence, is a very important point. And to be clear, the principle of interdependence is quite different from being dependent. Because in reality, nothing really happens independently. We may have the assumption, the perception, and the concept of independence. But in reality, nothing happens all by itself.

All situations –– the good, the bad, and the ugly –– arise through the coming together of various factors. That’s what we call interdependence. We can see this if we look at our everyday joys, for example. Like the joy of taking a bite of a fresh and juicy apple, and the many sources of that joy: like the apple orchard, and perfect weather conditions. The farmers who cultivate the orchard, and those who transport the apples, and finally, the workers at the grocery store. Even our cars or trucks play a part in bringing that apple into our hands.

So you can see that even that little joy of biting into a fresh apple depends on many factors, many causes and conditions. When you think about it, it’s such a miracle that we have an apple, isn’t it? I should eat more apples and more fully appreciate this miracle. Wow! To have an apple, you need so many causes and conditions.

This understanding, the view of interdependence, is crucial in terms of working with your struggles or crises in life. This wisdom of interdependence brings the possibilities for us to heal, transform, and clear away any unfavorable conditions we face. Or at a minimum, it can help you to manage your challenges more skillfully and efficiently. When we engage with the world and our life with this view of interdependence, we begin to get a sense of genuine independence, a sense that things are functioning perfectly.

Our usual idea of freedom, of being independent, is actually flawed. And that causes us pain because it is not in harmony with the way things are and the way things actually function. For this reason, we need to take a second look at this idea of being independent.

When we look through the lens of interdependence, it is clear that every obstacle or crisis in our life arises due to various causes and conditions. And our experience of that challenge also depends on many different phenomena. So, given that an obstacle or crisis arises from many factors, whenever we wish to clear away an unfavorable situation, we will need to take into account those various contributing factors.

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Key points to remember

Upgrading Our Power Sources

Sometimes it is not ideal, or even possible, to think that you can handle a challenge, or a crisis, all by yourself. Even though we’d like to think that we can do it all by ourselves, that’s not going to happen, Why? Because that challenge is arising in dependence on many different factors.

So, the question is, how then, can we overcome these challenges? I have two answers to offer.

One source of power for handling any challenge in life is yourself. You have the full power, believe it or not. And the degree of that power depends on how you’re able to see, and how you’re able to manage, the factors of interdependence. When you can do that, you can actually pierce the heart of the matter, so to speak. That means you will be able to correct any errors and upgrade the situation. We’ll be upgrading our trial version of life to the level of Pro. Why do we need to do that? Because the trial version of life never works fully.

So, we start by upgrading to the view of interdependence. If you can upgrade to that, then life will be fully functioning, fully working. It will be full of functions that are skillful means. So that’s the first thing to remember: your Self power. That’s how you can be independent and, at the same time, not lose the heart essence of interdependence.

Secondly, the Other power. We just talked about Self power, and this is the other power. To gather a greater sense of the power of the mind, you need to get a full upgrade, which includes others. Not just relying on Self power alone, but also relying on Other power.

Our life is like a device. And skillful means and blessings are like the apps, or the software, for that device. If you think you can do it all by yourself in life, that’s like saying, “I don’t need any software or apps developed by others. I will create all my own apps and software for everything!” Is that possible? I don’t think so. Not only is it not possible, but it’s also a waste of your time.

Somebody has created this beautiful software called Word. You can do word processing with that app, and it has so many functions and tools. And it only costs a certain amount of money. So why would you spend your whole life creating and perfecting another Word software? That wouldn’t make sense.

It doesn’t make sense to say, “I’m going to create my own word processing app, or software. I’m going to create my own Photos app, my own Excel app or Numbers app.” Then I guess you would have to create your own App Store, too, so you could pay yourself when you buy your own apps.

So therefore you can see that this approach doesn’t really make sense. And in any case, it’s not really possible. Do we want to spend our lives reinventing the wheel? No. That’s why even a great software or hardware developer, or creator, downloads others’ software and apps. When you’re accepting others’ great wisdom and excellent creative development, there’s a sense of humility. There’s also a sense of openness. So that’s the second source of power we need: Other power.

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