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The fruitlessness of anger

“This is the essential difference between ordinary anger and wrathful compassion. Ordinary anger is motivated by fear and aversion; wrathful compassion is motivated by love that has the courage to confront people for their own sake. Anger seeks to protect the self, or one’s own self-righteousness. Wrathful compassion seeks to protect all others, by challenging what harms them. The difference is quite clear.”

–  John Makransky, “Aren’t we right to be angry?” from Tricycle Magazine.

 

 

Just came across this article. I spent half of the weekend full of anger and I am not sure it really did anything good except make me feel miserable. The love and connection I felt on Saturday felt much stronger and more powerful.

Just some thoughts in my on going struggle to cultivate equanimity.

In which the Precepts come to my rescue.

I don’t know about anybody else but the upcoming election and the news around it has spun me into a state of anxiety, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a very long time. My mind is racing and I can’t get a proper night’s sleep. Combine this with the fact that it’s “that time of year” and I’ve not really been myself lately.

Depression is a sneaky bastard. Lately I will be in the middle of a really horrible, self depreciating thought and something will make me come to my senses and I will realize, “Oh, I’m in a depression. And depression lies. OK. this makes sense now.” It’s at that point when I change my approach to self compassion and doing the things that I need to do as my brain works it’s way out of this sate.

This happened to me a couple of days ago. As I was realizing the state I was in I was thinking about how I do stupid things when I’m depressed, and I do them because my brain is telling me lies. I get worked up emotionally about delusions and then I act on those emotions sometimes and then I have to deal with the aftermath of these actions.

I realized that I have a tool to help me through this! The Precepts. I am so grateful for the precepts.  I have come to look at them as like a kind of roadmap to life. When I am in this deluded state I can look to the Precepts to help guide me to the right action, regardless how I feel. I can trust that whatever action I take, if it is based on the Precepts, things will be alright. If nothing else, I won’t have to deal with the karma of  my bad actions on top of the terrible feelings of despair that go along with depression.

Just having this realization has made me feel a lot better.

As a side note to myself, In light of this realization, I think I am going to make zazen a priority. I have been having a hard time motivating myself to meditate and that’s bullshit. All of the precept study in the world does nothing if I am not regularly practicing zazen everyday. 

Six Word Saturday

This week’s Lesson: everyone’s a stranger. *

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*In a good way. I am doing Precept Study at my zen center and the precept we worked with this past week is: “Do not dwell on past mistakes — create wisdom from ignorance.” In a book I’m reading the author interprets this precept with the statement: “I take up the way of meeting others with openness and possibility.”  I like the idea of meeting everyone with a blank slate. Because, honestly, the person standing in front of you is not the same person who stood before you yesterday (even if they appear to be).

On being goal less

Last night at my meditation group I  got in a discussion about goalless practice. This is a Zen thing – the idea that the state you are in at this moment is perfect and goals imply that you are imperfect in this moment and that you need to somehow change.

This idea of not having a goal is crazy hard to grasp, especially being informed by Western, and even, American culture. Goals are such a huge part of who we are. Who am I if I don’t have goals? What kind of a person doesn’t have goals? A person who veers off in every direction. A person who has no focus. That seems like a crazy idea to me. I was born into a strict set of things I should strive for in my life. I am supposed to get married. I am supposed to be a homeowner. I am supposed to have a good job my entire life and then retire at age 65. These are the basic goals that have been instilled in me from the time I was born.

However, as I get older, I have been warming up to the idea of being goal-less. Indeed when I ask myself that common interview question “where do you see yourself in 5 years” I kind of draw a blank. In fact, that question kind of scares me a little. I like the idea of life taking me where it wants to take me. I think life is more exciting that way. I think that, if you let it, life will unfold in ways you will never expect, and they can be completely amazing beyond your imagination.

Lately I’ve been saying things to myself like, “Why don’t I read ‘The Heart Sutra‘ everyday and see what happens.” Or “What would happen if shot one large format pinhole photo everyday.” Basically doing  these things to see what will come of it.  I am naturally a very curious person and this kind of experimental living works well for me.

As a result, I have found myself  more immersed in the moment, rather than focused on the outcome. And when I do notice an outcome from doing this “thing” everyday I am surprised and excited by what I’ve learned. The wisdom seems to bubble up from inside my heart somewhere, rather than it being all in my head. For example, the outcome of reading The Heart Sutra everyday has been that I have learned about self compassion – which has been what I’ve needed to learn about! The outcome of shooting a large format pinhole shot everyday was that I learned a ton about how my camera works.

So now I am thinking about how I can apply this to health goals. This might be harder. I have some specific things I want to do with regard to health. I want to lose some weight – at least 15 pounds. The sad thing is that I’ve  been trying to lose this 15 pounds for a long time. It has been an elusive goal. So maybe it is time to let go of this goal. Maybe instead I should say, “what would happen if I went to the gym twice a week?” Or “What would happen if I ate a salad everyday for lunch?”

Embracing goalless practice when it comes to health might be harder to do…