Compassion

Compassion (karuna) is a major theme throughout Buddhist history.  In early Sanskrit it was known as “metta”  which translates into loving kindness. In the West we use the word compassion more often, but there are Western Buddhist teachers, like Jack Kornfield, who says “loving kindness” in his teachings.

I like this quote, “Our compassion is our Buddha seed or Buddha nature, our potential to become a … Buddhas give Dharma teachings motivated solely by compassion for others.

It reminds me to be kind to others without expecting anything in return. If someone needs help and I can help them, then the compassionate thing to do, is help them.

Being of service is something I enjoy. I like feeling needed and I know I just wrote I should be kind without expecting anything in return, but the way I see it, there’s nothing wrong with feeling good about doing something good. A Buddhist teacher will probably disagree with me because my happy feeling is a sort of attachment. I agree with that, but I’m human and I like feeling happy. Don’t most of us? If I help another sentient being and I end up getting smacked in the head for my efforts, I won’t get pissed off about it. Knowing my intentions were good, is good enough for me whatever the outcome. Wait.. maybe that isn’t attachment. I just wrote that I would feel good no matter what. That’s non-attachment. Right? Maybe I could use some more time meditating about that.

There’s another compassion, Buddhism teaches and that’s to practice loving kindness to beings who (I think) are assholes. That one I have a harder time with. When I have a conversation with someone who rubs me the wrong way; they’re a grumpy ass or they say mean things about certain groups of people, I find it hard to think kind thoughts about them.

For example: In an earlier post I wrote about one of my neighbors who lives with his elderly mother. I didn’t give the guy a name in that post, so to make it easier, I will now. Let’s call him Bob. Bob is around sixty and his mom must be pushing eighty. She has heath issues and if Bob didn’t live with her, she’d probably be living in a state-run retirement home. No fun for sure. So Bob makes sacrifices to keep his mother happy. Bob sleeps on the sofa. There are two bedrooms in their mobile home but his mom sleeps in one and the other is her art studio. Needless to say, Bob has no space or room to call his own. As for privacy, the only privacy he has is inside his truck. That would make anyone cranky. I can feel compassion for him about his living situation.

The problem and I know it’s my problem, is that I attach my happiness on his mood. I can choose to avoid him and that’s what I’ve been doing for a couple months now. I used to walk my dogs on the road by his home. Now we go another way. But by avoiding him, aren’t I missing the opportunity to practice my Buddhist belief?  If he’s outside when we walk by and he sees us and stops me to talk or as I see it… talk at me, I can choose to see him differently. He may tell me he’s upset about those gays or those liberals or whatever FOX news told him to be angry about and I can understand that he isn’t angry about any of that. He’s angry about his life and his living situation. It’s easier to complain about things going on “out there” than to say how he’s really feeling. Only a few times has he complained about his mother and that was about her finding more chores for him to do.

Instead of feeling my anger bubble up as he’s talking “at” me, I can choose to feel compassion for his living situation. Its easier for me to do it later when I meditate on it, but as it’s happening in real-time, not so much. I never get into an argument with him but I am known to say something sarcastic which comes out as a joke, but really isn’t. It would be nice for me to remember that his harsh words are coming from a place of pain and that’s where I would like to focus my compassion. That’s where I can practice being a Bodhisattva instead of a smart ass.

Choosing to respond in loving kindness to difficult people is hard. It takes practice. Lots of practice. But it is something I am willing to work on.

Namaste.

Ingebird

 

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Tolerance

tol·er·ance

noun: tolerance
The ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

Example: “the tolerance of corruption”

For the past couple of weeks I have been thinking about the concept of tolerance, acceptance and compassion. For the sake of time, I decided to write my thoughts about each one in different posts. So, today’s post is about tolerance (duh, Ingebird it’s in the title. LOL).

When I think of tolerance, I think about the times I lived in communities where my neighbors lived a few feet away and sometimes, like the condominium I lived at a couple of years ago, my neighbor was in the condo above me. She had hardwood floors and I could hear walking. I had to learn to tolerate people who at times played their TVs, video games and music way too loud, especially during the summer months when everyone’s patio doors were open. I lived in Southern California and the freeways were usually packed. I had to tolerate rude drivers who got angry when I didn’t drive fast enough (to be honest I am a slow driver. There just isn’t any place I need to get to in a hurry). Now that we moved to a rural area, there’s mostly two-lane highways so I piss off a whole new group of people. The way I see it is, they should thank me. If it weren’t for me driving slow, they would miss out seeing the beautiful trees. Driving slower gives them a chance to take in the sights while going to their destination. There are places where passing is allowed, so many drivers take advantage of that.

There are other forms of tolerance. I read a transcription from a talk by Ratnaghosa about tolerance which he called, The Art of Disagreement.

From a Buddhist perspective, tolerance is extremely important and it has been a hallmark of Buddhism down the twenty-five centuries of its history. Tolerance is the acceptance that other people hold different views from ourselves. Tolerance is the willingness to allow others to be different in their views and actions. Above all tolerance is the absolute avoidance of using power, violence or coercion to force other people to think and believe as we do<!–em>.

I get where he’s coming from and at the same time I wonder just how much tolerance should be tolerated before one says enough is enough? Hate speech comes to my mind. For the past year (not as much now) more and more hate groups are gathering in public squares, universities, or marching in the streets, spewing plain old hateful words against certain people who they seem to think are getting more rights than them. In other words, the members of these groups think they are getting a smaller and smaller piece of the American Pie. They feel their way of life is threatened (with the help of certain news channels, right-wing talk shows and our own president.)

On the other hand, I don’t like political correctness. It smacks of censorship which reminds me of Fascism and book burning. If we can’t talk about things that might offend some people, then how we can begin to understand each other and hopefully someday get along? Where is the middle ground? Is there one? Can we have a dialogue without mudslinging? What about active listening? With all the yelling, how can anyone hear anyone anyway?

I limit the amount of news I read because there is only so much time in the day and I prefer to spend my time listening to those who have positive things to contribute to our world. I did read some social media accounts belonging to hate groups were deleted which prompted comments from people who are against censorship and want free speech no matter what. Like I mentioned before, I get that…but this hate speech has led to violence and for the past year hate crimes are increasing. It seems as though this speech empowered some people to act out, who probably weren’t emotionally stable to begin with.

Having a disagreement can still be done using Right Speech. One can still get their point across without attacking another. I believe many people join hate groups out of fear. They are fearful of people who look different and they have been convinced that they are about to lose their freedoms (happiness) by those persons who have something to gain by keeping us divided. I think if we all were exposed to many types of people at an early age, no one would feel threatened. Even where I live, there are hardly any people of color. The majority are white and conservative. When I do see a black person shopping in a local grocery store, I notice them. I never did that before. I always lived in diverse neighborhoods.

I don’t believe people all of a sudden started thinking hateful thoughts. I think we are all guilty of thinking mean things, at least some of the time. A long time ago an African-American college classmate told me she would rather have someone say a racist word to her face so she would at least know why they were acting weird around her. It would never dawn on me that someone hated me because of the color of my skin. I can’t begin to understand what that must be like.

Tolerating someone because they look different or live a different lifestyle, isn’t the same thing as tolerating their driving or loud music, which brings me to acceptance. I will write about my thoughts on acceptance in my next post…

Namaste,

Ingebird

 

How Much is That Buddha in the Window?

We drove to town today to do some grocery shopping. Normally we avoid the small, tiny downtown area and go straight to the grocery stores, but today we decided to drive down main street. The town has been around since the 1850s when people came in droves to strike it rich during the gold rush. Downtown is now a tourist attraction and the shops sell antiques and boutique clothing instead of picks and shovels. As we drove through, a small Buddha statue sitting outside The Full Circle Trading Company caught my eye. (I have six Buddha statues already but in my opinion, one can never have too many Buddhas!) This particular shop sells Native America art, beads and jewelry. I never saw anything related to Eastern religions or philosophy. I was excited! They must have expanded their merchandise!

I got out of the car and went inside and walked around the store. No Buddhas inside, so I asked the woman at the cash register if they were getting more Buddha statues like the one out front. “What?” she asked. So, I repeated my question. “Buddhas, are you selling Buddhas? There’s one outside your store.” That’s what I said, but judging by the look on her face, she heard, “Are you selling satanic ritual stuff?” She stood there looking at me for what seemed like minutes before she regained her composure and told me, “The statue belongs to the guy downstairs.”

I left and reminded myself this town and surrounding communities are not exposed to different cultures. Buddhism is about as foreign to them as well… Buddhism. The majority of people living here are white. The churches are your garden variety of Christian beliefs, each one thinking they are the “correct” one. The only thing Asian here is the one Chinese restaurant outside of town and the “Oriental” spice section at the Safeway.

Maybe the guy downstairs meditates. Maybe he is a practicing Buddhist. Maybe he knows if there is a temple around here that I haven’t seen yet. Those questions will be investigated another day; today we are out to buy food and for now I will be happy practicing alone with my six Buddhas.

Namaste,
Ingebird

Noah Levine on Buddhism

A friend turned me onto this guy’s Buddhist teachings. I never heard of Noah Levine before and I thought Dharma Punx was the name of a punk rock band. It happens to be the name of a book written by the guy whose in the video. I will be watching more dharma talks by Noah and I plan to buy his book. If you’re new to Buddhism and/or meditation, or have been practicing for years, you may enjoy this dharma talk. What I like about him is, he’s an ordinary guy facing the same day-to-day issues of being human that we all do.

Namaste,
Ingebird

Five Reasons to Meditate: Lion’s Roar Interview With Pema Chödrön

Photo by Liza Matthews.

 

“Yes, it’s a strange thing to do — just sit there and do basically nothing. Yet the simple act of stopping, says Pema Chödrön, is the best way to cultivate our good qualities. Here are five ways meditation makes us better people”. Read more here.

 

I’ve been meditating for about 8 years now and there are times I still lose my shit. It happened just the other day when I was driving and this crazy woman was in her car behind me, tailgating me, then flashing her headlights and finally honking her horn. It was the honking that put me over the edge. I unleashed a tirade of cuss words that would make a sailor blush….and hubby who was in the passenger seat and unaware of this woman’s actions behind us, said, “I guess all that meditating is really paying off.” I immediately saw how absurd my behavior was and how I allowed this woman’s erratic behavior suck me into her drama. I let my anger go and laughed about it. Before I learned about meditation, I would have stewed about what happened for hours but now I get over my anger more quickly.

Namaste,

Ingebird

Why I Became a Practicing Buddhist

The short answer to why I became a practicing Buddhist is; Strangling people who I felt deserved it wouldn’t work for me because #1) Orange is not a good color for my skin tone and #2) I don’t like confined spaces.

The longer answer is; Most of my life I did things so I wouldn’t “rock the boat”  which left me feeling angry a lot of the time. I put up with way too much shit from people who cared less about me and more about what I could do for them. I took jobs because I didn’t think I could get something better. If someone was giving me a hard time about something I would sit and listen to them while I fantasized stabbing them in the neck with a fork. Those thoughts usually popped into my head when I was a waitress and a customer was ripping into me because his or her food either took too long to cook, or the food wasn’t as good as they expected. Some customers (although not all) think people working in food service are not only food “servers” but are actually their personal “servants.”

Then I worked other jobs where the boss thought he or she could boss me around all day long for the only reason being, he or she was the “boss.”  I did work for myself for a few years as a massage therapist and that was awesome. It was during that time I learned about treating my body as a temple. I still needed some lessons about nutrition though and I don’t mean what is taught in medical schools that are a sorry excuse for nutrition. That’s what happens when major food corporations hand out huge donations to schools. Students learn what those corporations want you to learn which is “buy my junk food.” it’s healthy for (our bottom line).

I stopped working as a massage therapist when we moved from San Francisco to Chico. I couldn’t make the kind of income I did in the City because there wasn’t enough people wanting to relax. At least that’s what I told myself, so I went back to restaurants.

Then we decided to move to Southern California. At the time I was in my early fifties and I couldn’t find work. It was the first time I found myself competing with much younger people who were also looking for work. I couldn’t get hired as a food server but I did get a job as an assistant manager at a major restaurant chain (famous for their homemade pies). Now I had to deal with angry customers, as well as a wait staff that acted more like kids in a nursery school and a boss who thought he could say what ever popped into his head, no matter how outrageous it sounded. I did stand up for myself. I was never one to put up with verbal or sexual harassment but I found myself stewing about the event hours after it happened. Anger whether it’s verbally expressed or festering in my mind has to manifest somewhere because it’s energy. I’m sure the occasional outburst isn’t that big of as deal but as in my case, over the years that shit built up and manifested itself in my ass. I got sick for the first time in my life. Yes, I had the occasional cold and flu but this was “big one.” It was the c-word and my life was on the line. Sitting in waiting rooms in doctor’s offices and spending time as an inpatient in hospitals gave me lots of time to review my life. How the hell did this happen to me? I always knew I would beat the dreaded c-word, but I didn’t know how I could prevent it from coming back.

I went back to reading books on spirituality that I read when I was a massage therapist, only this time I took them seriously which led me to meditation. I had some experience with meditation when I lived in San Francisco. I sat sazen at the Zen Center once a week for almost a year. I loved going but when we left, I stopped meditating altogether. There were no Zen centers in Chico, although there were lot’s in Southern California but I was too caught up in the “rat race” again. I lost my groove when it came to finding peace in just sitting and being in the moment. The c-work brought my desire to find that place again and never let go. I now watch several YouTube videos on Zen and follow different Buddhist teachers online.  At the moment I do not belong to a Sangha. Being part of a group where I have to show up in person on a regular basis isn’t for me but that doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind in the future.

I have been meditating daily for almost eight years. I still get pissed off but I see myself doing it and before that I didn’t. Now I can decide if getting angry is really worth possibly making myself sick again and for the most part, it definitely is not. I learned to say “no” to anything that didn’t feel right to me. I learned to enjoy my own company. I am still learning not to be a control freak. That’s probably my biggest lesson to work on. I cannot control events or people’s actions outside myself, only my inner being. I remind myself of that sometimes a hundred times a day. But most of all, I am learning to take care of me.

Namaste,

Ingebird

Reincarnation: What Are My Options?

 

Lately I have been thinking about reincarnation (probably because I turn sixty-three this year). Buddhists believe in reincarnation as well as many other religious groups… and I pretty much believe it, although I can’t say I believe 100% because I’m not dead. I’m not arguing if  reincarnation is true or not. I’m not even giving that part any thought, but what I do think about is this; What if I get reborn into another fucked up family? I barely made it through seventeen years in this lifetime. Why would I want to go through that again or maybe something worse? Seventeen years are a loooong time to put up with crazy people, two people for sure who had no business having kids. I have a younger brother, eight years my junior. He had it pretty good until I ran away when I turned seventeen. Then he got the brunt of their fuckedupness. I lost touch with him years ago so I have no idea how he turned out (as an adult that is). As for my parents (and I use that term loosely) I don’t speak to them either for reasons I already mentioned. I am happy with my decision of cutting ties with those people and I think I turned out to be a pretty good human being. In fact, I never gave it much thought until I became a Buddhist or at least practice Buddhist teachings.

I was never formally admitted nor do I belong to a Sangha… at least for now. I was never a “joiner.”  I’m not good at following rules when it comes to groups or showing up consistently at a certain place and time. I am definitely not orthodox in my beliefs, that’s why I consider myself a Bohemian Buddhist.

But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about reincarnation. I have questions and lot’s of them: Do I really want to reincarnate? Do I have a say in the matter? Is their someone in the afterlife I can discuss this with? Can I find out what my options are before I decide to stay or go back? There will probably be more questions I haven’t thought of. But for now these keep my brain busy. (So much for practicing living in the moment. LOL).

Do you think about stuff like this? Or am I just plain weird?

Namaste,

Ingebird