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Ajahn Brahm's Inspiring Wisdom : A Truckload of Dung

From "Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung ? : Inspiring Wisdom for Welcoming Life's Difficulties"


UNPLEASANT THINGS, like becoming last in our class, happen in life. They happen to everyone. The only difference between a happy person and one who gets depressed is how they respond to disasters.

Imagine you have just had a wonderful afternoon at the beach with a friend. When you return home, you find a huge truckload of dung has been dumped right in front of your door. There are three things to know about this truckload of dung :
1. You did not order it. It's not your fault.
2. You're stuck with it. No one saw who dumped it, so you cannot call anyone to take it away.
3. It is filthy and offensive, and its stench fills your whole house. It is almost impossible to endure.

In this metaphor, the truckload of dung in front of the house stands for the traumatic experiences that are dumped on us in life.

As with the truckload of dung, there are three things to know about tragedy in our life :
1. We did not order it. We say 'Why me?'
2. We're stuck with it. No one, not even our best friends, can take it away (though they may try).
3. It is so awful, such a destroyer of our happiness, and its pain fills our whole life. It is almost impossible to endure.

There are two ways of responding to being stuck with a truckload of dung. The first way is to carry the dung around with us. We put some in our pockets, some in our bags, and some up our shirts. We even put some down our pants. We find when we carry dung around, we lose a lot of friends! Even best friends don't seem to be around so often.

"Carrying around the dung" is a metaphor for sinking into depression, negativity, or anger. It is a natural and understandable response to adversity. But we lose a lot of friends, because it is also natural and understandable that our friends don't like being around us when we're so depressed. Moreover, the pile of dung gets no less, but the smell gets worse as it ripens.

Fortunately, there's a second way. When we are dumped with a truckload of dung, we heave a sigh, and then get down to work. Out come the wheelbarrow, the fork, and the spade. We fork the dung into the barrow, wheel it around the back of the house, and dig it into the garden. This is tiring and difficult work, but we know there's no other option.

Sometimes, all we can manage is half a barrow a day. We're doing something about the problem, rather than complaining our way into depression. Day after day we dig in the dung. Day after day, the pile gets smaller. Sometimes it takes several years, but the morning does come when we see that the dung in front of our house is all gone.

Furthermore, a miracle has happened in another part of our house. The flowers in our garden are bursting out in a richness of colour all over the place. Their fragrance wafts down the street so that the neighbours, and even passers-by, smile in delight. Then the fruit tree in the corner is nearly falling over, it's so heavy with fruit. And the fruit is so sweet; you can't buy anything like it. There's so much of it that we are able to share it with our neighbours. Even passers-by get a delicious taste of the miracle fruit.

"Digging in the dung" is a metaphor for welcoming the tragedies as fertilizer for life. It is work that we have to do alone: no one can help us here. But by digging it into the garden of our heart, day by day, the pile of pain gets less.

It may take us several years, but the morning does come when we see no more pain in our life and, in our heart, a miracle has happened. Flowers of kindness are bursting out all over the place, and the fragrance of love wafts way down our street, to our neighbours, to our relations, and even to passers-by. Then our wisdom tree in the corner is bending down to us, loaded with sweet insights into the nature of life. We share those delicious fruits freely, even with the passers-by, without ever planning to.

When we have known tragic pain, learnt its lesson, and grown our garden, then we can put our arms around another in deep tragedy and say, softly, 'I know.' They realize we do understand. Compassion begins. We show them the wheelbarrow, the fork, and the spade, and boundless encouragement. If we haven't grown our own garden yet, this can't be done.

I have known many monks who are skilled in meditation, who are peaceful, composed and serene in adversity. But only a few have become great teachers. I often wondered why.

It seems to me now that those monks who had a relatively easy time of it, who had little dung to dig in, were the ones who didn't become teachers. It was the monks who had the enormous difficulties, dug them in quietly, and came through with a rich garden that became great teachers.

They all had wisdom, serenity and compassion; but those with more dung had more to share with the world. My teacher, Ajahn Chah, who for me was the pinnacle of all teachers, must have had a whole trucking company line up with their dung at his door, in his early life.

Perhaps the moral of this story is that if you want to be of service to the world, if you wish to follow the path of compassion, then the next time a tragedy occurs in your life, you may say, "Whoopee! More fertilizer for my garden!"

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Winston S. Churchill

Churchill, Age 26

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm."

— Winston S. Churchill

British Artist, Historian, Writer and Statesman

1874 - 1965

Churchill painting (1946)

Churchill was a man who faced both failure and success multiple times throughout his life.  He did poorly in school, had a speech impediment, grieved the death of a child, smoked Havana cigars, and was captured and spent time as a prisoner of war in South Africa.  He wrote a novel, two biographies, three volumes of memoirs and several books of history.  He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.  He painted hundreds of paintings and several now hang in museums.  He served as the Prime Minister of Great Britain twice.  So when Churchill speaks of failure and success we all should listen.

We all face both failure and success in our lives.  How we respond to what life hands us will tell others a lot about our character.  When you suffer the humiliation of defeat and rejection, how do you respond?  Do you become angry?  Do you seek revenge?  Do you withdrawal into depression?  When you receive some honor and are applauded by everyone, how do you respond?  Does the recognition go to your head and you become arrogant?  Do you act like a diva and expect everyone to do your bidding?  How we deal with the successes and failures of life tells us a lot about ourselves.

Daybreak at Cassis, near Marseilles

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Albert Einstein

"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination.  Imagination is more important than knowledge.  Knowledge is limited.  Imagination encircles the world."

German Theoretical Physicist

1879 - 1955

Unfortunately, most schools are focused on increasing the knowledge of their students, not their imagination.  And while knowledge is important, imagination is even more important.  There is a limit to how much knowledge we can gain and retain.  The span and accuracy of knowledge is constantly changing and expanding.  What is considered truth today is considered foolish tomorrow.  Once people believed the earth was flat.  We would be much better off if our schools also encouraged imagination.

And the same can be said about creative leaders.  Many artists, writers, actors and musicians study to increase their knowledge of their art.  And this knowledge is good but limited.  We need to be encouraging our imaginations.  We should be exploring the worlds of our imaginations.  What are you doing to increase your imagination?
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Cynthia Ozick

"We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude."

— Cynthia Ozick

American Novelist

1928 -

Are you thankful for the abilities, talents and gifts that you have?  The gift of sight is something that many of us take for granted on most days and yet without it our lives would be dramatically altered.  Our ability to see allows us to navigate the world in which we live and gives us the opportunity to go where we want without assistance.  Writing that novel or painting that canvas would be much more difficult if you could not see.  You would not be able to read a book unless you learned Braille or listened to books.  You would not be able to see the faces of those you love.  Give thanks for your ability to see every day.

Are you thankful for your ability to hear?  What would your life be like if you were deaf?  You would not be able to listen to music or hear the words, "I love you."  Yes, you still should be able to write that great novel or paint that masterpiece, but you would miss out on much that happens around you.  You wouldn't hear the birds singing in the morning or the wind in the trees or the rain falling.  Be thankful that you still have your ability to hear.

Life gives us so many challenges and difficulties that we often lose sight of what we have.  We become lost in all the things we don't have.  We are unhappy because we have not published a novel or sold a painting.  We wish we were rich and famous.  Life is so precious.  We should be happy that we awoke this morning and are still above ground.  We should be happy that people love us and care for us.

Learn to develop an attitude of gratitude.  Give thanks every day for the gifts you have been given.   I challenge you sit down right now and write down ten things that your are grateful for.  Post them to this blog if you would like to share.

Here is a video of Ozick discussing her life and writing.

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Inspirational Life Quotes- You Can Handle It's Demands

Today’s quotes about life’s demands are meant to be an inspirational source for anyone who has been hit blow after blow with difficulties and unfortunate events.  Do not give up on your goals and dreams no matter how tough life gets.  You are stronger than you think.  You are built to handle whatever life throws your way.  Remember, that God will not let you undergo more than you can handle.  So always hold your head high and look to the future with hope and confidence in your abilities. 

Read these life quotes and allow them to get you back on the path to fulfilling your dreams.

“The will of God will not take you where the grace of God cannot keep you.” Anon

“What God expects us to attempt, he also enables us to achieve.” Stephen Olford

“Nothing befalls a man except what is in his nature to endure.” Marcus Aurelius

“The human spirit is stronger than anything that can happen to it.” George C. Scott

“Within us all there are wells of thought and dynamos of energy which are not suspected until emergencies arise.  Then oftentimes we find that it is comparatively simple to double or triple our former capacities and to amaze ourselves by the results achieved.” Thomas J. Watson

“We have what we seek.  It is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.” Thomas Merton

“Nature reacts not only to physical disease, but also to moral weakness; when the danger increases, she gives us great courage.” Johann von Goethe

“In the darkest hour the soul is replenished and given strength to continue and endure.” Heart Warrior Chosa

“A man can bare more than ten oxen can pull.” Yiddish Proverb

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Larry Wilde

"Like all creative souls, writers learn over time that while they may be failing, they are not failures.  They learn from their mistakes, and they keep on going.  When it seems they've hit a stone wall, they find a way to move ahead.  Even if it takes them down a radically different path."

American Writer, Speaker

1928 - 

The challenge that many creative leaders face is learning to separate their creations from who they are.  If we identify too closely with our creations, we will not be able to handle criticism or failure.  We must realize that we are much more than our creations.  We are human beings with friends, families and other important relationships.  If we let the failure of our creations to depress or anger us, we are identifying too closely with them.  Sometimes our creations will not find a worshiping or adoring audience.  And this is okay.  Learn not to depend on the praise of others — editors, publishers, readers, critics, etc.  Taste is arbitrary and fickle.  Believe in your work and some day an audience will appear.  

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Inspirational Quotes about God

Today’s quotes are some of the most inspirational quotes about God.  God is everywhere. No matter where you go, no matter what you do, he is always there watching.  He is near no matter how far you may try to pull away.  God knows that you need him.  So he just watches and waits for you to pull closer.  Like a parent reunited with his lost child he will hold you tightly with his warm embrace.

Like any loving parent he wants the best for you.  God is a source of strength, guidance, and peace of mind.  He guides us through his word the bible and warns us when we are on the wrong path.  If you follow his guidance you cannot fail.

God will also comfort you when you are in distress.  He may send his comfort through the warm words from a friend.  It may come from the pages of a book.  Whatever the source of comfort may be, know that it is from your loving God and Father.  May today’s inspirational quotes about God help you to draw closer to him always, whether in good times or bad times. 

Here are today’s inspirational quotes about God:

“I believe in the incomprehensibility of God.” Honore de Balzac-Inspirational Quotes about God

“God is like a mirror.  The mirror never changes, but everybody who looks at it sees something different.” Rabbi Harold Kushner

“God is to me that creative Force, behind and in the universe, who manifests Himself as energy, as life, as order, as beauty, as thought, as conscience, as love.” Mary Baker Eddy-Inspirational Quotes about God

“The most beautiful of all emblems is that of God, whom Timaeus of Locris describes under the image of “a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” Voltaire

“When we lose God it is not God who is lost.” Anon- Inspirational Quotes about God

“By learning to contact, listen to, and act on our intuition, we can directly connect to the higher power of the universe and allow it to become our guiding force.” Shakti Gawain

“When a man takes one step toward God, God takes more steps toward that man than there are sands in the world’s of time.” the Work of the Chariot-Inspirational Quotes about God

“The kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21

“All who call on God in true faith, earnestly from the heart, will certainly be heard, and will receive what they have asked and desired.” Martin Luther- Inspirational Quotes about God

“To think that you are separate from God is to remain separate from your own being.” D.M. Street

“Without the assistance of the Divine Being…I cannot succeed.  With that assistance I cannot fail.” Abraham Lincoln- Inspirational Quotes about God

“Whoever falls from God’s right hand is caught into his left.” Edwin Markham

“Pardon, not wrath, is God’s best attribute.” Bayard Taylor- Inspirational Quotes about God

“I will not fear for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” Thomas Merton

“Walk boldly and wisely…There is a hand above that will help you on.”  Philip James Bailey- Inspirational Quotes about God

“The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18: 27

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6- Inspirational Quotes about God

“God speaks to all individuals through what happens to them moment by moment.” J.P. DeCausade

“I would rather walk with God in the dark than go alone in the light.” Mary Gardiner Brainard- Inspirational Quotes about God

“What we are is God’s gift to us.  What we become is our gift to God.” Anon

“Above all am I convinced of the need, irrevocable and inescapable, of every human heart, for God.  No matter how we try to escape, to lose ourselves in restless seeking, we cannot separate ourselves from our divine source.  There is no substitute for God.” A.J. Cronin- Inspirational Quotes about God

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Terry McMillan

"Writing is my shelter.  I don't hide behind the words; I use them to dig inside my heart to find the truth."

American Novelist

1951 -

What is your art for you?  Is it your shelter?  Your protection?  Your connection to the outside world? Whether we are writers, painters or poets, our art serves us in many ways.  Sometimes it provides us hope for a better world.  Sometimes it provides us with the strength to go on living.  Often it saves us from our own worst selves.  Some of us are better people because of our art.

Do you tell the truth with your art?  Do you share what needs to be shared.  Or do you hide behind your art?  Do you dig deep inside your soul and reveal the truth?  Or do you share only what floats on the surface of the water?
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Robert Browning

"A moment's success pays for the failure of years."

English Poet

1812 - 1889

Success is short-lived and fleeting.  Success rarely makes you a better person.  The demons that haunted you when you were a failure still haunt you when you are a success.  In fact, success often makes the demons worse.  Success has even destroyed some creative leaders.  Yet, ask any writer, singer, actor or artist if those years of failure, hardship and poverty were worth that moment of success, and most will say yes.

Here is a poem by Robert Browning about two lovers sneaking out to meet each other late at night.

Meeting at Night

The gray sea and the long black land;

And the yellow half-moon large and low:

And the startled little waves that leap

In fiery ringlets from their sleep,

As I gain the cove with pushing prow,

And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.

Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;

Three fields to cross till a farm appears;

A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch

And blue spurt of a lighted match,

And a voice less loud, through joys and fears,

Than the two hearts beating each to each!

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Inspirational Friend Quotes

This collection of inspirational friendship quotes will help you to focus on all the benefits of having a good friend.  They will help you to remember what it takes to make and keep friends. 

These friendship quotes also focus on what a true friend is because let’s face it, we all need them.  Some people have 1 or 2 friends.  Others are surrounded by many friends.  Whatever the case, it is important that you understand what being friend really means.

Let these friendship quotes enlighten you and inspire you to seek out and become a true friend.

Friendship quotes:

“There is no hope or joy except in human relations.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery Quotes

“Your wealth is where your friends are.” Plautus Quotes

“To have a good friend is one of the highest delights of life; to be a good friend is one of the noblest and most difficult undertakings.” Anon Quotes

“There is no wilderness like a life without friends; friendship multiplies blessings and minimizes misfortunes; it is a unique remedy against adversity, and it soothes the soul.” Baltasar Gracian

“No medicine is more valuable, none more efficacious, none better suited to the cure of all temperal ills than a friend to whom we may turn for consolation in time of trouble, and with whom we may share our happiness in time of joy.” Saint Ailred of Rievaulx

“One thing everybody in the world wants and needs is friendliness.” William E. Holler

“There is no physician like a true friend.” Anon Quotes

“True happiness…arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self, and in the next from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions.” Joseph Addison

“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.” Woodrow Wilson Quotes

“Friends are an aid to the young, to guard them from error; to the elderly, to attend to their wants and to supplement their failing power of action; to those in the prime of life, to assist them to noble deeds.” Aristotle Quotes

“If you want an accounting of your worth, count your friends.” Merry Browne

“Friends are the sunshine of life.” John Hay

“The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship.” Francis Bacon

“Tis the human touch in the world that counts-the touch of your hand and mine-
Which means far more to the sinking heart than shelter or bread or wine is o’er, and bread lasts only a day
But the touch of the hand and the sound of the voice
Live on in the soul always.” Spencer M. Free

“A true friend is the best possession.” Anon Quotes

“Good friendships are fragile things and require as much care as any other fragile and precious thing.” Randolph Bourne

“The only way to have a friend is to be one.” Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

“There is a magnet in your heart that will attract true friends.  That magnet is unselfishness, thinking of others first…When you learn to live for others, they will live for you.” Paramahansa Yogananda

“We secure our friends not by accepting favors but by doing them.” Thucydides Quotes

“Friends are lost by calling often and calling seldom.” Scottish Proverb

“Who seeks a faultless friend remains friendless.” Turkish Proverb

“Probably no man ever had a friend he did not dislike a little…” Edgar Watson Howe

We shall never have friends if we expect to find them without fault.” Thomas Fuller

“The more we love our friends, the less we flatter them; it is by excusing nothing that pure love shows itself.” Moliere

“There are only two people who tell you the truth about yourself- an enemy who has lost his temper and a friend who love you dearly.” Antisthenes

“A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere.  Before him, I may think aloud.” Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

“They are rich who have true friends.” Thomas Fuller

“Real friendship is shown in times of trouble; prosperity is full of friends.” Euripides

“In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.” John Churton Collins

Related Quotes

Marriage Quotes from the Bible

Inspirational Parenting Quotes


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Catherine Lanigan

"I learned that writers make something out of nothing.  We make dreams into reality.  That's our nature, our mission.  We were born to it.  I will never give up my dream again.  Never." 

American Writer

1947 - 

Catherine Lanigan gave up on her dream of writing while in college because a college professor told her she had no talent.  Years later after encouragement from a journalist, she returned to writing. 

We all have people who try to destroy our dreams and it takes courage to stand up to them.  If you are a beginning artist, writer, actor or singer, don't ask if you have talent.  No one can judge that but you.  Ask if you have the passion and persistence to keep creating even when others discourage you.  Ask if you have the heart and the courage to stand up for what you believe in.

Writers and artists make something from nothing.  They take a blank canvas and fill it with color.  They take a blank sheet of paper and fill it with story.  Believe in your dream.  Believe in yourself.  Believe in your creative gift.

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Wassily Kandinsky

"The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning."

— Wassily Kandinsky

Russian Artist

1866 - 1944

When I graduated from college, I wanted to be a writer, but I had no idea what to write about. I had nothing to say — nothing that I wanted to say.  I had an idea about writing a historical novel about a sleeping preacher who had lived at the beginning of the 20th century.  Maybe through the life of someone else, I would find something to write about.  The novel never materialized.  I failed at the research.

Creative leaders must have something to say — something that needs saying.  If we focus on form but have no substance, we will not be successful.  Substance has the power to overcome weak technique, but technique cannot support a lack of substance.

What are you trying to communicate with your art?  What is the message that you want to deliver to the world.  What is the substance of your writing?  Or have you allowed your mastery of technique to overshadow the substance?

Composition X

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Marsden Hartley

Photograph of Marsden Hartley

by Alfred Stieglitz


"My work is getting stronger & stronger and more intense all the time.... I have such a rush of new energy & notions coming into my head, over my horizon like chariots of fire that all I want is freedom to step aside and execute them."

— Marsden Hartley

American Painter, Poet

1877 - 1943

Have you ever experienced that moment when the ideas flowed and you had a hard time keeping up with them?  Your hand couldn't move fast enough.  People often talk about not being able to create — about being blocked, but they talk less about the moments when they can't stop working.  When they are in a zone and the work continues to flow.  These moments also happen.  Celebrate them when they do.  They are a gift.

Mountain Lake - Autumn


Here is a poem by Marsden, a prolific poet.

As the Buck Lay Dead

As the buck lay dead, tied to the fender

of a car

coming down the Matagomon way,

I saw dried blood on his tongue of

a thousand summer dreams and winter

cogitations —

the scratches on his hooves were signatures

of the many pungent sticks and branches.

The torn place in his chest was made

by a man

letting out visceral debris to save weight-giving

morsels to many a greedy fox or other wild

thing —

over the glaze of his half-shut eye

hung miscries of superlative moments

stuck dumb
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