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Rage, Blame, Compassion


Phanta
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This is a section of one of my favorite books, When Things Fall Apart. I was reading it last night in a difficult moment. I am working hard on compassion for people in my life who present a real challenge for me.

 

...if what we're feeling is rage, we usually assume that there are only two ways to relate to it. One is to blame others. Lay it all on somebody else; drive all the blames into everyone else. The other alternative is to feel guilty about our rage and blame ourselves.

 

Blame is a way in which we solidify ourselves. Not only do we point the finger when something is "wrong," but we also want to make things "right." In any relationship that we stick with, be it marriage or parenthood, employment, a spiritual community, or whatever, we may also find that we want to make it "righter" than it is, because we're a little nervous. Maybe it isn't exactly living up to our standards, so we justify if and try to make it extremely right. We tell everybody that our husband or wife or child or teacher or support group is doing some sort of peculiar antisocial thing for good spiritual reasons. Or we come up with some dogmatic belief and hold on to it with a vengeance, again to solidify our ground. We have some sense that we have to make things right according to our standards. If we just can't stick with a situation any longer, then it goes over the edge and we make it wrong because we think that's our only alternative. Something's right or something's wrong.

 

.....Feeling right can feel good; we can be completely sure of how right we are and have a lot of people agreeing with us about how right we are. But suppose someone does not agree with us? Then what happens? Do we find ourselves getting angry and aggressive? If we look into the very moment of anger and aggression, we might see that this is what wars are made of. This is what race riots are made of: feeling that we hae to be right, being thrown off and righteously indignant when someone disagrees with us. On the other hand, when we find ourselves feeling wrong, convinced that we're wrong, getting solid about being wrong, we could also look at that. The whole right and wrong business closes us down and makes our world smaller. Wanting situations and relationships to be solid, permanent, and graspable obscures the pith of the matter, which is that things are fundamentally groundless.

 

Instead of making others right or wrong, or bottling up right and wrong in ourselves, there's a middle way, a very powerful middle way. We could see it as sitting on the razor's edge, not falling off to the right or the left. This middle way involves not hanging on to our version so tightly. It involves keeping our hearts and minds open long enough to entertain the idea that when we make things wrong, we do it out of a desire to obtain some kind of ground or security. Could our minds and our hearts be big enough just to hang out in that space where we're not entirely certain about who's right and who's wrong? Could we have no agenda when we walk into a room with another person, not know what to say, not make that person wrong or right? Could we see, hear, feel other people as they really are? It is powerful to practice this way, because we'll find ourselves continually rushing around to try to feel secure again--to make ourselves or them either right or wrong. But true communication can only happen in that place.

 

Whether it's ourselves, our lovers, bosses, children, local Scrooge, or the political situation, it's more daring and real not to shut anyone out of our hearts and not to make the other into an enemy. If we begin to live like this, we'll find that we actually can't make things completely right or completely wrong anymore, because things are a lot more slippery and playful than that. Everything is ambiguous; everything is always shifting and changing, and there are as many different takes on any given situation as there are people involved. Trying to find absolute rights and wrongs is a trick we play on ourselves to feel secure and comfortable.

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I am on your journey. It has been a real learning experience to develop compassion for the difficult people in my life. I have become wiser but learned I must also have defenses against some people, who will suck up all my good will like some kind of emotional vampire. It is OK to keep distance from some challenging people.

 

I like this part from your quote above:

"Trying to find absolute rights and wrongs is a trick we play on ourselves to feel secure and comfortable."

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phanta, Thanks for your post. I've always loved the words of Pema Chodron, particularly an essay of hers about maitri (loving kindness), where she emphasises that compassion begins with ourselves...........if we cannot be kind towards ourselves the it can prove impossible to be so towards others.

 

Just a small excerpt......

 

When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying, "If I jog, I'll be a much better person." "If I could only get a nicer house, I'd be a better person." "If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person." Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say, "If it weren't for my husband, I'd have a perfect marriage." "If it weren't for the fact that my boss and I don't get on, my job would be just great." And "If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent."

 

But loving-kindness - "maitri" - towards ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. "Maitri" means we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice is not about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

 

Oh yes! We can still be crazy ater all these years, which is good to know......

 

:lol:

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I think that Pema Chodron shows a lot of good sense in her writings. I have a read a few books by her and other Buddhist writers along the same lines.

 

I wonder though, if these books really help at all.. of course I am speaking for myself. Even though I have probably read hundreds of them, very few have any impact on my life beyond a few days of thinking about it. I have recently come upon some new information on the internet that has given me some explanation as to why I am like I am and that I am not the only one. I am talking about articles about "emotional empaths" and "highly sensitive persons."

 

 

This is an important point, quoted by millips:

 

"But loving-kindness - "maitri" - towards ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. "Maitri" means we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves."

 

How do we free ourselves of this notion that there must be something wrong with us because we don't like to do most of what the rest of the world likes to do, or we don't seem to function like most people do.

 

I have wondered for some years why I cannot have a "normal life" like most people. I can't have this or that or the other (mostly relationship, social and employment related stuff). Then I start blaming myself, when really its OK. What if its a genetic high sensitivity which cannot be changed or should not even be tampered with?

 

Here is something else by Chodron quoted by Phanta:

 

"Could our minds and our hearts be big enough just to hang out in that space where we're not entirely certain about who's right and who's wrong? Could we have no agenda when we walk into a room with another person, not know what to say, not make that person wrong or right? Could we see, hear, feel other people as they really are?"

 

Relating this to my own situation - don't talk very much unless I have to. I already feel plenty of communication on a nonverbal level coming off of most people. This is hard to explain, but I know pretty much who they are after a few days. I don't have to use words, either. I can tell a great deal by how they act, how they look , how they walk, sit, move -- I notice everything. It is entirely intuition but I have learned to trust it. It has gotten more acute since I hit middle age, too.

 

If I have to speak to someone, its almost always rehearsed in my head beforehand. On the job, if I must say more than a few words, I actually write out what I am going to say. I am much better at writing than speaking.

 

I am not sure what Chodron means by an "agenda". If see means doing without this kind of rehearsal preparation I would say that this is pretty much impossible for me. But I am not sure if that is what she is talking about ,or if she is just speaking of people who are entrenched in their own points of view. I have no agendas in that regard. I am not out to persuade or control anyone. That is the farthest thing from my mind. I do listen to other people's views and try to see pro and con and I have very few polarized views.

 

What I try to do is protect myself from stress overload of taking on all the other person's emotions. That is a real issue for me and at work it sometimes makes my life hell when I can't get away from the negative person and all their hostile vibes.

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I am not sure what Chodron means by an "agenda". If see means doing without this kind of rehearsal preparation I would say that this is pretty much impossible for me. But I am not sure if that is what she is talking about ,or if she is just speaking of people who are entrenched in their own points of view. I have no agendas in that regard. I am not out to persuade or control anyone. That is the farthest thing from my mind. I do listen to other people's views and try to see pro and con and I have very few polarized views.

 

She is speaking in the context of the latter, of approaching a being with a plan to make them/ourselves into something they/we are not.

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deva,

 

For myself, I think that Pema Chodron - being a practising Buddhist - would assume that her words are read in association with some degree of meditative practice. I would agree that if this is not so then the impact of her words would be minimal at any genuine level.

 

However, I would also say that our capacity for empathy towards others can be developed in a multitude of ways, not just those explicitly "Buddhist". I am speaking of a constant and reflective mindfulness, which can be an aspect of any "spiritual" path, and of any human being seeking to know a true compassion. I think each human being is unique and ultimately there are as many "true" paths/ways as there are human beings.

 

As far as "agenda's" , my understanding is that Pema Chodron could well be touching upon a way known in Buddhism as Anabhoga-Carya, usually translated as "effortless" or "no striving", where "no working" (i.e our own thinking, calculating self) is "true working" (i.e the working of spontaneity). Like yourself, I know virtually nothing of it, but it seems to be a way of being (or perhaps NON- being!) worth seeking.

 

All the best

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I have finally made peace with the fact I am not like most people. It always made me feel esentially "wrong" in some way, even though deep in my core I really don't want to be. It is okay to be me, but it has taken 50 years to work that out. I don't need to control others or change them. I don't need to decide for them what they do or don't believe. I don't have to sway them to my way of thinking. I do want to smack some people upside of the head for their self centredness on a daily basis though.

 

I have always had an extra dose of empathy which leaves me open to abuse. I have taken steps to divest my life of assholes, and keep at a respectable distance those family members who drain me and sadden me. I never learned any compassion for myself, I was too busy showering it on everyone else. I chose to put the boot into myself for not being perfect, again and again and again. What a stupid, stupid woman I have been.

 

I decided as a very young person not to ever abuse people the way I had been abused. I have been pretty succesful at that, but I didn't realise that in that decision I had almost guaranteed my self abuse. This happened because I tried to emulate Jesus totally, not realising what his end was and why from a sociological perspective. Because I am different I don't understand the average mind, the mind that is ruled by the group and not the individual. I never understood how deep the lie is in people when they are slaves to conformity.

 

Being right is not important, being kind and tenderhearted is.

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I thought that Pema Chodron must have had some other sort of idea of "agenda" that I couldn't figure out. I am sure you are right Phanta, she didn't mean it in the way I thought it at first.

 

I am speaking of a constant and reflective mindfulness, which can be an aspect of any "spiritual" path, and of any human being seeking to know a true compassion. I think each human being is unique and ultimately there are as many "true" paths/ways as there are human beings

 

I am sure you are right about that, millips. Being in a state of "not being" is to be truly open and not defensive or perhaps spontaneous. I am not sure what Pema Chodron meant but I think it must be along these lines. Seems quite an achievement.

 

Incidentially, my Buddhist name is "Pema Nyingje" which means "Lotus of Compassion." It is said that the dharma name you get when you become a Buddhist is either something that you have already, that characterizes you, or that it is something you need to work on. Not sure yet why it was conferred on me. I think about it a lot. Compassion is about the highest attribute in Buddhism.

 

Galien, I have divested myself of some people who I thought were friends in the beginning but who actually turned out to be nothing more than energy- sucking vampire types or people who only wanted things from me for themselves. They would be nice but there were always strings attached. It was painful to do so, but I think that having no friends is better than having those types around. I wonder if somehow I attract these kinds of people. I feel the need to protect myself, and I always have, except earlier in my life I would not or could not act on those feelings. Then I paid a high price.

 

I never had the desire to control or change anyone, except for a brief time in my life which is long over. I don't like it and I don't ever want to be in that position again.

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I am on your journey. It has been a real learning experience to develop compassion for the difficult people in my life. I have become wiser but learned I must also have defenses against some people, who will suck up all my good will like some kind of emotional vampire. It is OK to keep distance from some challenging people.

 

I'm finding that I can have a boundary with a person and I can have compassion for them at the same time. Compassion doesn't include a willingness to be exposed to energy or behavior that feels like abuse. In fact, for really difficult people or situations, if I can hold them at some distance, only then can I begin to build a practice of compassion toward them.

 

Phanta

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phanta, Thanks for your post. I've always loved the words of Pema Chodron, particularly an essay of hers about maitri (loving kindness), where she emphasises that compassion begins with ourselves...........if we cannot be kind towards ourselves the it can prove impossible to be so towards others.

 

Just a small excerpt......

 

When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they're going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are. It's a bit like saying, "If I jog, I'll be a much better person." "If I could only get a nicer house, I'd be a better person." "If I could meditate and calm down, I'd be a better person." Or the scenario may be that they find fault with others; they might say, "If it weren't for my husband, I'd have a perfect marriage." "If it weren't for the fact that my boss and I don't get on, my job would be just great." And "If it weren't for my mind, my meditation would be excellent."

 

But loving-kindness - "maitri" - towards ourselves doesn't mean getting rid of anything. "Maitri" means we can still be crazy after all these years. We can still be angry after all these years. We can still be timid or jealous or full of feelings of unworthiness. The point is not to try to change ourselves. Meditation practice is not about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better. It's about befriending who we are already. The ground of practice is you or me or whoever we are right now, just as we are. That's the ground, that's what we study, that's what we come to know with tremendous curiosity and interest.

 

Oh yes! We can still be crazy ater all these years, which is good to know......

 

:lol:

 

Thanks for sharing that. :)

 

Phanta

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I have wondered for some years why I cannot have a "normal life" like most people. I can't have this or that or the other (mostly relationship, social and employment related stuff). Then I start blaming myself, when really its OK. What if its a genetic high sensitivity which cannot be changed or should not even be tampered with?

 

That's a real possibility. Interesting thought. Now I'm thinking, too. Are there things about me that cannot be changed and should not be tampered with? Are these the things I call "core"?

 

Here is something else by Chodron quoted by Phanta:If I have to speak to someone, its almost always rehearsed in my head beforehand. On the job, if I must say more than a few words, I actually write out what I am going to say. I am much better at writing than speaking.

 

I know you wrote about this in regards to a confusion we have cleared up, but that aside, this is a great tool. I am a chatterer, but when I am in serious business, I write out a note ahead of time. For instance, tough relationship talks. I used to have a partner who called them (affectionately), "your little notes".

 

Phanta

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deva,

 

Very interesting to here your "buddhist" name. More often than not I use "tariki", a Japanese word meaing "Other Power". "Other" as in "There is no "self power" nor "other power", there is only Other Power. It reflects my own interest in Pure Land Buddhism, which essentially reveals our "insecurities" within the warm light of Infinite Compassion, rather than revealing our sins by the harsh spotlight of Yahweh's wrath!!

 

The sad thing about so much Christianity is that what can prove to be - and potentially is - life affirming, is in fact twisted into what could virtually be seen as a demonic parody, twisted by those incapable of mercy/compassion either towards themselves or others. This will always be the case when fear has the final word.

 

As the Good Book says......."perfect love casts out fear".

 

May we all find that perfect love, which in fact is everywhere and nowhere.

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The sad thing about so much Christianity is that what can prove to be - and potentially is - life affirming, is in fact twisted into what could virtually be seen as a demonic parody, twisted by those incapable of mercy/compassion either towards themselves or others. This will always be the case when fear has the final word.

 

As the Good Book says......."perfect love casts out fear".

 

May we all find that perfect love, which in fact is everywhere and nowhere.

 

Yes, yes, millips. Thank you so much for writing that. May we all!

 

:)

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