Something interesting and kinda strange happened while I was flipping through channels and came across a cartoon a few weeks ago.  An animated character decided to have a “perfect day,” but as events unfolded, more and more worry and fear began halting all progress toward this goal.

Everything the character starts to do—games, eating favorite foods, even walking—becomes fodder for an escalating anxiety which leads him, eventually, to an isolation chamber, after arriving at this startling conclusion: What if he eats the ice cream and it’s not as good as he imagined? What if he falls down while he’s walking? What if his friends, who are now carrying him so he doesn’t fall, trip and drop him? What if the music he wants to hear isn’t beautiful enough?

In the isolation chamber, where the character will now have a perfect day because he won’t have to see, hear, smell, taste or feel, I started having an out of body experience, thinking, wow, who wrote this episode, Rinpoche? The Dalai Lama? Richard Gere?

Because in Mahayana Buddhism’s Heart Sutra, the prevailing wisdom involves exactly that: no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind.

Later, unsurprisingly, the character starts missing ice cream and walking and games and his friends, breaks out of the chamber, and goes back into the world. At first glance, someone, especially a child, might be confused by the reversal. If all those things were keeping him from having a perfect day, how could he have a perfect day now, when he’s back in the middle of it all?

In one short Buddhist tale, a person with a pack (burden) is climbing a hill. After a long time, they stop, remove the pack, rest, and look all around them, and become enlightened. Then eventually they put the burden back on and keep going.

And I guess that’s what this character did in this silly, simple little cartoon. Even kids would understand this, on some level, beneath the laughter. I felt lucky to have stumbled on this episode by accident, ’cause I’d forgotten about the story of the uphill walk. I hadn’t thought about it in a long time.

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