How Not to Be a Hot Mess - A Survival Guide for Modern Life - Craig Hase


There is a story from the Buddhist canon we’d like to share. It has to do with doubt and storms and taking your place in the middle of everything.

In this story, the Buddha is not yet the Buddha. He’s a young prince-turned-mendicant named Siddhartha. He has just spent six years meditating, pushing himself to the brink of death in his epic quest for the answer to everything. Now it’s the moment right before the tangle of his mind unbinds, the moment before he achieves full, complete awakening and leaves suffering behind for good.

But first things get crazy. Because as he sits down under a tree, as he closes his eyes to meditate one more time on the ultimate nature of things, as he drops deeper and deeper into the concentration that will finally end his quest—a demon appears. And not just any demon, but the demon Mara, who embodies delusion and doubt and obfuscation and who wields untold power over the capricious minds of mortals.

First, Mara sends his daughters to tempt the Buddha-to-be. But Siddhartha is unmoved.

Next, Mara sends armies of terrifying demons to shake the young prince from his seat. But their arrows turn into flowers.

Finally, Mara hits him with a final gambit. “Who are you,” he says to the thirty-six-year-old seeker who has abandoned everything in his search for truth, “to think you can sit in this hallowed seat? Who is your witness?”

Siddhartha pauses for a moment. Maybe he even hesitates. Who isn’t prone to the sneaky messenger of doubt?

But then, sitting cross-legged in meditation, the young man begins to list for Mara his goodness. He remembers moment after moment of generosity, patience, service—all the instances of standing upright in the middle of the storm. He steadies his mind. He places his hand on the ground. And he says, simply, “The earth is my witness.”

Mara is vanquished. The Buddha is awakened. And the rest is history.

Standing Upright in the Storm

Pretty cool, right? But most of us, most of the time, don’t have that kind of clarity. That’s why this book is for those who are lost in the storm: blinded by the blizzard of information, the hurricane of stimulation, the typhoon of opinions and judgments and how-tos and must-dos. Those who feel, as we all often do, like a phenomenally dysregulated hot mess, one step behind it all, a storm within the storm, lavishly disorganized and exhausted and not-quite-with-it as the world somehow spins on, never quite sitting still while we never quite sit still, either.

This book is for all of us who would like to know exactly just what to do with life in its magnificent rush of pleasure and pain, gain and loss, its dreamlike phantasmagoria of web-based temptations and quasi-demonic forces. It’s for all of us who would like to know, too, what to do with our anger, hopelessness, confusion, ideals, ideas, and big questions. How do we settle the hot mess of our own lives, anyway, when the world seems to be spinning off its axis?

That’s what this book is about. It draws on Buddhist advice because, believe it or not, Buddhism has been through it all before. It’s seen wars, plagues, oppression, and ten thousand terrible haircuts—and it has, along the way, developed dependable ways to stay steady in the roller coaster of family feuds, romantic vacillations, uncertain futures, and all the rest. This book offers six pieces of really good advice drawn from this 2,600-year-old wisdom tradition. These six pieces of really good advice can help you determine just exactly how you can settle the hot mess of your mind and stand in your uprightness smack in the middle of everything. Like the Buddha, when he touched the earth and decided he wasn’t going to take Mara’s shit anymore.

Mindfulness Is Not Enough

Fine. Sounds good, you might say. Stand upright. Settle the hot mess of my mind. No more shit from Mara. But where do we start?

We start with mindfulness.

Mindfulness has been getting a lot of press these days. And for good reason. Because mindfulness is the very cornerstone of a life well lived. It’s the ability to pay stable attention to whatever is happening, right now, in all its weirdness and complexity, without turning away. It’s the simple warmhearted awareness of this.

So mindfulness is power. Mindfulness is beauty. But there’s something you should probably know. Something no one is really talking about. Put simply, all the mindful magazines and mindful business consultants and mindful sex coaches and mindful apps and mindful advertising gurus