Monday, June 25, 2012

How to Be a Coward

I got snippy with a guy the other day. I could see the surprise on this face, so I realized I needed to turn down the volume. I felt a bit embarrassed and he felt a bit hurt. We went on with our conversation, pretending like nothing happened.

After the conversation I left, and then I thought, "wow, where did that come from? When did I become such an asshole?" I was uncomfortable. I could feel it in my chest. There was a battle going on inside my head, but I decided I had a lot to do, so I pushed the thoughts and discomfort away. It's easy to keep painful or disturbing thoughts away by finding other ways to distract your mind. That's how people with families become workaholics.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Experiencing Pain

Life is beautiful and full of pain. When we feel something painful in our hearts, our instinct is to escape. We can be like little kids, seeing a bee and running away in terror. But we could aspire to be more steady than that, a little more courageous.

When I was on retreat in April, I took a hike up to the purkhang where Chogyam Trungpa was cremated. It's in a grassy meadow, surrounded by pine forests and mountains on three sides that reach straight up to the clouds.

I was looking at the purkhang, taking in the space, when another woman on retreat, who was circumambulating the purkhang, suddenly broke out into tears. I knew what was on her mind because she told me one of her closest friends was dying.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Applying Tonglen in Everyday Life

Here's a suggestion: next time you are really really pissed off or irritated or whatever, notice that. If you do notice it, you are 50% of the way to letting it go. Maybe more than 50%.

Today I was in an argument with the woman I love and live with. I was completely hooked. I was mad because she was mad and she was mad because I was mad that she was mad. She wouldn't talk about it or say she was mad, so that made me feel more neurotic, more mad.

A proverbial devil on my shoulder was saying, "your problems are nonsense. Girls in Calcutta are being forced into slavery; climate change is melting the Poles. You're pathetic!" On the other shoulder an angel was saying, "it's OK. You can't control your thoughts. Don't fight them. Accept them and let go." In fact, both voices were right, but that wasn't helping me get over the feeling.