in my anger
i became a ghost
here, in my love
i become human
Zen Parable of the Monk and the Samurai
A big, tough Samurai once went to see a little monk.
He barked, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience.
“Teach me about heaven and hell!”
The Monk looked up at the mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain,
“Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you about anything. You’re dumb. You’re dirty. You’re a disgrace, an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my sight. I can’t stand you.”
The Samurai got furious. He shook, red in the face, speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword, and prepared to slay the Monk.
Looking straight into the Samurai’s eyes, the Monk said softly,
The Samurai froze, realizing the compassion of the Monk who had risked his life to show him hell! He put down his sword and fell to his knees, filled with gratitude.
The Monk said softly,
“And that’s heaven.”
anger in and of itself is just energy. like any other emotion. we are human and we experience anger. and when the sometimes intense, hot energy of anger is put into responsible use, it can be beneficial too! anger can be a powerful motivating force in our work to end injustice, for instance.
our experience of anger can also be an opportunity to investigate what gets under our skin and eats at us. what makes us lose our cool, how fast do we lose it? are we acting out of anger with our words and actions, adding to the harm and suffering in the world?
the celebrated Franciscan, Richard Rohr has said, “What we don’t transform, we transmit.” if we allow the experience of anger and the investigation of anger to transform us, we may find as the Samurai did in the Zen parable above, the healing energy of compassion as we connect to our own humanity and the humanity of others.
in this way, our experience of anger is just another teacher on the path to our own transforming and expanding heart, rather than the further transmission of aggression and suffering in this world.
~Yoda Explains About the Force~
Yoda: A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will…
Luke: Is the dark side stronger?
Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.
Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda: You will know… when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.
just waves on the Ocean…
When anger arises, or sorrow or love or joy, it is just anger angering, sorrow sorrowing, love loving, joy joying. Different feelings arise and pass, each simply expressing its own nature. The problem arises when we identify with these feelings, or thoughts, or sensations as being self or as belonging to ‘me’: I’m angry, I’m sad.
~ Joseph Goldstein
“Nothing that comes and goes is you..“I am angry, sad, afraid.” Who knows this? You are the knowing, not the condition that is known.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
#emotions #anger #sadness #joy #YouAreNotYourEmotions #YouARE #YouAreTheOneWhoKnows #nonattachment #JustBe #ComingAndGoing #WavesOnTheOcean #RideTheWave #float #YouAreTheOcean #EverythingChanges #impermanence #zen #TheMettaGarden #JMWart
i have been waiting. allowing myself to feel this discomfort, this sadness and disappointment, this anger. giving space to what is heated within, finding its balance with what is sane and centered in the heart – compassion, kindness. waiting to respond with thoughtfulness – choosing to act rather than react. this is my practice after all, the practice of Buddhism. to keep the heart open in the face of what is uncomfortable, painful, ugly. to be with it. allowing it to teach and reveal.
this has been difficult, not reacting, not feeding the fire as i have read comment after comment these past few days on social media. most of these comments from friends. so many quick to react with declarations which at their least harmful are only minimally informed, are over-generalized, and over-simplified – and at their most harmful are cynical, dishonest, cruel, bating, aggressive and i’ll say it, racist in some respects and over all bigoted in other respects. racism referring to discrimination solely based on race and bigotry referring to discrimination based on personal opinion which can include anything from race to gender identity, sexual orientation, class, profession…you get the picture.
you see, racism and bigotry today whether personal or systematic, are like anger – most people don’t want to admit that they angry and aggressive, neither do most people want to admit that they embody racism or bigotry. that’s part of the problem. what we are not willing or able to see, we are not willing or able to transform and heal. it’s insidious in that it barely surfaces in the open…thriving where it can’t be seen. poverty is insidious as well…perhaps this is why the two make such comfortable companions.
so as i read comment after comment about how this 18 year old deserved to die, got what he had coming to him for breaking the law (“if he had only not robbed that liquor store”), or how rioters didn’t steal any work boots (inferring they are jobless? lazy? not sure), or how all cops are pigs, or how justice was served, or how the Grand Jury was completely fair and just (from people who no doubt didn’t read the evidence – which hadn’t been released yet)…i found myself in a bit of despair. we have so much work to do as a country – still not having faced fully/willingly the sins of our past…something that desperately needs to be done if we want to be truly healed and transformed – and we are reducing this opportunity to name calling, finger pointing, riots and looting? when we reduce the dialogue to half-truths and generalizations, to bating and name calling, when we reduce our actions to rioting, looting and causing more harm – we miss the bigger story of what is going on and we miss our opportunity to create change, to transform ignorance and pain, we miss the opportunity to reduce suffering and heal. let’s not miss this opportunity, no matter how uncomfortable or painful it may be.
i worry for my nephews and nieces – all beautifully diverse in ethnicity and color. but i worry most for my nephews. the stares they will receive, the unwarranted fear and suspicion people may have, just because they have dark skin. it’s true, it already happens…the staring part, just recently at Disneyland. perhaps they were just staring at me, wondering what this bald white guy was doing holding this beautiful dark skinned toddler. my bald head was shiny due to sun-block, perhaps they were staring at that. i don’t know, but on multiple occasions people just looked like they didn’t understand what they were seeing, until they noticed me looking back smiling, which provoked at least a partially cracked – maybe slightly embarrassed smile on their face.
so i keep my heart open, because this is the practice and despite all the ugliness i’ve been reading and seeing these past few days, i still believe that all people without exception – even the most hatefilled, ignorant, angry, and nasty in their words and actions – at their core are good and have the ability to have their hearts open in love, transform their lives, and benefit the world rather than add to its suffering.
i keep my heart open, so that my nieces and nephews see what that looks like in the face of sadness or anger. i keep my heart open so that compassion can find a home and love can find a way to flow into service for others that they may benefit.
perhaps we all should at some point in our lives, experience a bit of oppression, a bit of bigotry towards us, a bit of feeling marginalized. perhaps this mud of being on the bottom is fertile ground to grow empathy, understanding and compassion. perhaps then we will see that it is possible to name what is ugly without becoming ugly ourselves. it is possible to point to what is harmful without adding to it with our words and actions…perhaps then we can be a people joined in our predicament of suffering, learning how to love and heal together.
in closing, below is one of my favorite poems from my teacher, Thay. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote this poem in 1965 having been surrounded by violence, death and suffering during the Vietnam War. i share it with all of you and i hope you hear it. but i share it especially for all who have been or are oppressed, victimized and marginalized – all who have suffered and are angry or in despair. i share it for my nephews and nieces, whom i hope will grow into a world where perhaps they will not experience bigotry or racism, but if so, will find their ground in compassion and love.
on the eve of this 2014 Thanksgiving, even in sadness, i can say i am grateful. grateful for my beautiful family, for my practice, for our capacity to love and grow, for so many that inspire me to love better and open my heart more, and even to those who challenge that very heart to close up – you are my teachers. because of you, i grow in compassion and i thank you.
by Thich Nhat Hanh
promise me this day,
promise me now,
while the sun is overhead
exactly at the zenith,
Even as they
strike you down
with a mountain of hatred and violence;
even as they step on you and crush you
like a worm,
even as they dismember and disembowel you,
man is not our enemy.
The only thing worthy of you is compassion –
invincible, limitless, unconditional.
Hatred will never let you face
the beast in man.
One day, when you face this beast alone,
with your courage intact, your eyes kind,
(even as no one sees them),
out of your smile
will bloom a flower.
And those who love you
will behold you
across then thousand worlds of birth and dying.
I will go on with bent head,
knowing that love has become eternal.
On the long, rough road,
the sun and the moon
will continue to shine.
Thursday, January 3rd 2013
Happy New Year friends and welcome to my first blog for 2013 and the first coordinated blog of 2013 as part of our continuing series, Solidarity Thursdays. I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to share space with Ben, Esther, and Zachary.
This week’s blog topic, appropriately, is “New Beginnings”. Ironically, I have had quite a bit of difficulty…beginning.
You see, I find myself – my heart and mind – still bound up in 2012, at least where it has bled into 2013. Try as I might, sitting in meditation, chanting “let go, let go”, I have discovered that even as I sit on that cushion I am harboring anger, frustration, and sadness over recent events. I am grieving in empathy with the families of the numerous children so tragically taken from life. I am grieving the ever increasing reaction we have to greet such horrific violence, with preparation to impart even more violence as a means to end violence. And in this, I am not speaking of the families who were directly affected. I would expect and understand such a reaction from such pain and suffering. Ironically, most victims are not calling for what is being set forth. A peripheral audience of opportunists, along with those guided by fear seems to be framing the discussion. I am grieving that politics can seemingly – so callously – ignore violence towards women or victims of Hurricane Sandy by not renewing The Violence Against Women Act or securing funds for these destitute people still without homes, still without assistance so long after the event. I am grieving for our over-consumption of resources resulting in an increasingly fragile environment and increasing poor. I am grieving that there is such continued imbalance of power, not through legitimate means, but instead through manipulation and dishonesty. I am grieving that this is so often a cause for celebration, rather than a wake up call to compassionate change.
And in this grieving and attachment, I feel disconnected. I feel disconnected to this world, where life is seen as so fragmented – where people entertain the idea of the “other” – where violence is seen as normal and in some cases even morally right and even a “necessary evil” – where for a matter of convenience we can look the other way, even as so many unnecessarily starve to death. I grieve that I have played a part in this just as anyone else has. I grieve, because Life itself is grieving. I grieve, because I am, indeed, connected to this world. I grieve, because I so love the people in this world. I grieve, because I long for people to stop and remember their nobility, their Divine Heritage as children of God, of Life, of Love – however you want to define or frame it. We are better than the violence, we are better than the overconsumption, we are better than the indifference, and we are better than fear.
I remember, I read quite some time ago when I began my meditation practice – specifically Metta, or loving-kindness meditation and with it a practice called Tonglen – that it isn’t unusual for a practitioner to become more aware and in touch with sadness…because even in its joy and beauty, life is always tinged with what I would call a sacred sadness. It isn’t just in Buddhism where this is recognized, just look to the artwork of Christianity where Jesus is depicted pointing to his exposed and Sacred Heart. Or even to the story of the crucifixion itself, where it is implied that it wasn’t just the wounds but the great burden of carrying within himself the brokenness of life that extinguished his. Loving until the heart itself breaks. As our heart opens to the world, we begin to see and connect to the pain of the world – pain we have participated in and pain we have been victims of. This coming of age to pain, this befriending of sadness, is an opportunity for compassion.
So I sat on the meditation cushion this very day, my breath interrupted by the thoughts listed above. I sat, with my heart heavy, my emotions ready and raw. And all I could do was what my practice continues to teach, what the Buddha taught 2500 years ago, and what Jesus encouraged with every person he encountered – begin anew. Beginning anew – coming back to my breathing, connecting my mind with my body, and in doing so reminding myself to live as a Whole being, a being of compassion, a partner to Life, a child of Love.
And I was reminded what it means to begin anew. It is our way of saying “yes” to Life with our life. It is our way of aligning ourselves with Life itself, of saying we are not separate, rather we are partners. It is our way of living Love, of acting with compassion.
It is a given that we need Life…but have you ever thought that Life, in fact, needs you? That this may bring meaning to why you are still breathing? That this may bring inspiration and motivation to why you are still here, to say in continuance – Yes, yes, and again, yes.
We fall, we rise. This is the pattern. The New Year is a wonderful way to ritualize this, but then again, so is each breath that we take.
May this New Year be blessed with many new beginnings as our hearts continue to open to Life and in service to compassion. Here is the blessing I shared on Facebook for New Years, may it be so:
“May you know your own beauty and sacredness just as you are. May you feel understood and valued. May you continue to learn, grow and open to all of what Life offers you. May you still experience peace when troubled, healing when wounded, patience when angered, and joy after sadness. And most of all, may you know that you are loved.”
Thursday, November 15, 2012
“Stop, look around, and see how wonderful life is: the trees, the white clouds, the infinite sky. Listen to the birds, delight in the light breeze. Let us walk as free people…”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
I was raised Lutheran, which is a denomination of the Protestant branch of Christianity. If Episcopalians are “Catholic light”, then we were even a bit “lighter” with just a few Sacraments short of the full deal. Nonetheless, giving up something for the Lenten season was a pretty regularly encouraged practice, though not rigorously enforced. It is the season of fasting bookended by Ash Wednesday at the beginning and ending with Holy Thursday or Easter Eve in some cases. It is about a six week or 40 day period to commemorate the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert. We would “fast” or give up something important to us during this period. Adults often gave up drinking alcohol and perhaps other “vices” during this time. As children, we often gave up candy or dessert or some other thing that made us resent the whole practice, leading us to see it mainly as a way for adults to oppress us further…what did candy ever do to anyone?! Just because Jesus didn’t have dessert in the desert, why can’t I? In any case, at the very least, Lent would provoke a roll of the eyes if not a fully committed grimace. Why does God want me to do without? How is this, an act of worship?
What? There’s a practical purpose to this nonsense?..
It wasn’t until the end of my early early adulthood that I began to see the subtle genius in fasting as a practice. It takes time to break habits. It takes time to create habits. There are many differing opinions regarding how long it takes to break or create a habit. It can depend on how deeply imbedded these patterns are and everyone is different. That being said, there seems to be some consensus that it can take about a month and a half…six weeks.
Here’s an example….
A number of years ago, my friend Mitch and myself discussed giving up stuff for Lent and possibly taking on a good habit or two as well. It was an opportunity for me to return to this practice as an adult and for Mitch who had not been raised with a particular religion, it was an opportunity to try it out. We took up the challenge. One of the challenges (thing to give up) was coffee. I know this is sacrilege for some, however, I knew I wasn’t addicted – I mean, I can drink a cup right before bed and then promptly lay down and go to sleep. And I knew I didn’t need coffee, so I thought it would be a no-brainer, easy-peasy, walk in the park. The first day was a breeze. None of that headache or body ache or lack of focus stuff people lament after giving up coffee. Day One = Success….then Day Two happened. Day Two began with one of the worst headaches I’ve ever had. Nothing seemed to help and somehow knowing that I still had more to gain from this experience, the headache decided to last for another two days….just to make its point. I couldn’t believe it. I had been physically addicted to coffee.
I did go back to drinking coffee, though not nearly as much since I fell in love with tea, but I learned a valuable lesson about myself and my body through fasting.
It isn’t about taking away…it is about letting go…
Now here I am today, nearing the beginning of middle adulthood, seeing my younger days in the rear view mirror and fasting has become something else. I now see fasting as an exercise, a practice in simplicity and letting go. I think this lesson is very much within the body of fasting within the Christian context and certainly a lesson within Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, or even the 40 days for Noah riding – waiting, during the flood. It can be good to surrender; it can be good to grow in our capacity to wait. But for me, it has been through the lens of my Buddhist practice – where letting go is the main theme – that I have seen and experienced this practice anew.
As a child, or as I did with my friend Mitch, it was a practice of community, of support, of accountability. Now it is a solitary practice, one in which I discover what is actually necessary, what I can do without, what is real. Fasting has become a practice of not only the letting go of physical or material things, but of looking deeper to emotions and patterns of the mind. Fasting from anger, from despair, from fear and grasping. Fasting is a way to promote simplicity and create space, so I am available to this present moment, to what is here for me now in this moment, that I may be aware and free to dance with Life and sing the song of Love with all.
When I can do this, when we can do this, we will be able as Thich Nhat Hanh says in the quote above, to walk as free people.
In the meantime, every once in a while, I will give up things like shaving…that can also feel free.
BTW ~ Fasting can also be a form of protest…perhaps another blog related to forms of protest?…
Ben at The Horizontalist is off traveling this week and will return soon. For more reading on this Solidarity Thursday topic, please check out these other wonderful blogs: Esther at Church in the Canyon. And with a truly unique take on all things Solidarity Thursday is Triskaidekapod. Join the conversation!
spent the evening watching 9/11 footage as i do every year on this day.
i find it incredible that 11 years later, the emotions that rise up from my chest – that turn my stomach – that tighten in my throat, can still be so present. and although the emotions of sadness and anger manifest their presence once again, i do not watch to give them life anew. i watch to remind myself. to remind myself that suffering not grieved, that anger not transformed, that bitterness unchecked – left in its darkened cave, grows into hate. and that hate when held onto, when taught and modeled, finds life in hopeless – desperate hearts. possibly giving birth for generations, slowly separating us from our humanity, from what is divine.
i also watch to remind myself of what it looks like to see such bravery in the face of horrific disaster and tragedy, to watch courage and compassion manifest as it did that day in the police and fire fighters, in doctors and nurses, in coworkers and friends. i watch to remind myself how a nation who can get lost in division, can all at once be unified in their grief, their desire to hold life, and in their humanity.
i know in my heart we are given all we need to heal, all we need to reconcile and restore. the solution is us. our hearts, our minds, our light, our love – together. in moments we see this and in the long arc of history i believe its thread is clear.
but there are dark moments, periods of time that can shake the heart, and i am left to wonder – have we learned?
wishing all of you, dear friends – relief from your suffering, happiness and peace.
September 11, 2012