The Cow in the Parking Lot: A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger

The Cow in the Parking Lot: A Zen Approach to Overcoming Anger By Leonard Scheff and Susan Edmiston

We've all been there...

- Waiting in a cue when a line skipper jumps in, costing us extra time when we've been patiently waiting for quite some time already.

- Driving along, minding our own business when someone in the next lane cuts us off, causing us to slam on our brakes.

- An encounter with someone who has a different political view than ours and insists on "straightening you out" because "you just don't get it"!

- The boss, who, on your way out the door at the end of a busy work day slams a stack of work onto your desk, insisting that it has to be done immediately (because he was out for an extended lunch and forgot to give it to you earlier!).

So now, the question is: what are you going to do about it? Of course you have choices: you can angrily give the offender a piece of your mind, but of course the situation might escalate. You can choose not to say anything and stuff your feelings, but we all know that stress is bad for our health and you can't bury your feelings forever. You can quit your job, or decide that the person who is pushing their political view on you is someone that you will never speak with again, but more often than not, these solutions aren't practical.

"The Cow in the Parking Lot" offers other possibilities...a Buddhist approach that helps readers deal with the anger caused by so many situations in everyday life, and find their way back to their happy place. From the back cover:

"Using simple Buddhist principles and applying them in a way that is easy for non-Buddhists to understand and put into practice, here is an interactive book that helps readers replace the anger in their lives with a newfound contentment. Take the journey of the Cow in the Parking Lot and discover a newer, calmer, happier you."

The book starts out with this situation, a contemporary zen parable: "You are at the grand opening of a new shopping mall on the edge of town. You've been driving around looking for a parking space for ten minutes. At last, right in front of you, a car pulls out of a spot. You hit your turn signal and wait as the car backs out. Suddenly, from the other direction, comes a Jeep that pulls into the space. Not only that, but when you honk, the driver gets out, smirks, and gives you the finger. Are you angry?

Now change the scene ever so slightly. Instead of a brash Jeep driver, a cow walks into the space from the other direction and settles down in the middle of it. When you honk, she looks up and moos but doesn't budge. Are you angry?

The point is, of course, that no matter who took the parking spot, you're in the same predicament...you need to find another spot. How you perceive what just happened and how you react, however, is entirely up to you.

"...Readers will discover not only an effective approach to overcoming anger, but the wisdom and methods to achieve a profound inner transformation - a life less troubled by destructive emotions, a life of greater happiness."

-Dr. Howard C. Cutler, coauthor with the Dalai Lama of "The Art of Happiness"

"Drawing on Buddhism's profound understanding of the mind, The Cow in the Parking Lot provides many insights and revelations about reducing anger and creating greater happiness in your life."

-John Tarrant, author of "Bring Me the Rhinoceros and Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life"

You do not need to practice Buddhism to benefit from the knowledge dropped throughout the pages of this short, easy to read book. Though Buddhist principles are used to take you on the journey, and the pages include many, many quotes from spiritual leaders, the wisdom is universal and can be applied to people on any walk or on any path in life. Through identifying our own "hot buttons", engaging in the exercises offered at chapter ends and more, we learn the liberating truth: Only YOU can make yourself angry.

The authors admit that the practices don't necessarily become habit with the blink of an eye. There is no magic pill. They do encourage us, however, to be willing and ready to change, to examine our old ways and welcome new happiness.

The ultimate test came for me at the very end of reading this book. On page 190, (out of 197 pages total), was the following offering: ""By this point in your reading you should know that your permit for carrying concealed anger has been revoked. In its place there is a card "In Case of Anger, Read This" on page 193. If you want, cut it out along the dotted lines and carry it in your wallet for the next anger attack, which is almost certainly on the way. ""

Eager to see the card, I flipped ahead to page 193, only to discover that (gasp!) someone had ripped the page out of the book entirely! The nerve...how could a patron do that to a library book, or any book in general? I was missing the final scene...the end of the show...the stunning conclusion...!

My reaction? Thanks to just having finished the book, instead of becoming angry, (especially as a staff member at a library!) my thought was that perhaps the previous reader really needed that card. I am happy* that they found the message so helpful, and that I hope that they are, indeed, carrying it around in their wallet and putting what they've learned into practice. This can only help to build a better world. Then I went out and purchased my own copy of the book, so I, too can carry the message around in my wallet. After reading "The Cow in the Parking Lot", I'm guessing you may want to do the same.

*Important note! The writer, nor any library would condone ripping a page out of a library book! There are fines that will be assessed for doing such a thing, plus it's completely inconsiderate to the next reader. If there is something that resonates with you when reading a special volume, kindly take a picture of the page, make a copy of the page, or even write out what the page reads in your own journal. Although in the case mentioned above I hope it brought the reader before me some peace, it is still not right. Library books are treasures to be shared by all.

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