Day 9 – Losing ground, regaining ground or falling off the perch and getting on it again
I fell off my perch yesterday – not that I died, obviously, but I lost my ground. That is to say, I lost my inner sense of being and confidence in my action. This is not uncommon of course! The brilliant thing is that I am getting better at consciously regaining it. So, now, rather than, when I fall off my perch, spiralling into an ever-deepening chasm of self-doubt, fear and depression, I can go ‘ah! Hear you go again. You’ve fallen of the perch and it’s only a matter of time and method to get back on it again. You’ve done it before, you can do it again.’
Probably my number cause of ‘perch-falling’ (or maybe you prefer loss of equilibrium) is worrying what others think of me. I wrote an email the other day to a couple of people who I seem to be very concerned about their opinions of me and got a somewhat retaliatory response. I went back and re-read my email and realised that it was a bit ‘passionate’ (ie. mildly aggressive and fearful but also well-meaning). Immediately I went into reconciliatory mode – ‘oh, I need to smooth this over or they might not like/listen to me.’ I sent an email. Not a bad one. No response. Mind begins to fret. ‘What if…?’ ‘What will I do?’ But does it really matter? Does it actually mean that there wasn’t any truth in what I was saying?’ I’m fixating on a situation for which I don’t have the whole picture and filling in the gaps with my mind-made story. I may be partially correct or I could be completely wrong. Either way, does it really matter? If My assumptions are wrong, they can be corrected. If I am right do I really need others to agree with me? Is there even such thing as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or are there only differing perspectives; is it all relative?
Of course the issue here is about the tight, Little Me that is afraid to be wrong and wants to be liked. It is tense and small and protective of itself. It doesn’t want to be wrong because it feels diminished if it is. It sees the world as black and white and permanent. It thinks that if it can only figure things out and put them in the correct boxes, where it lies at the centre of it all then things will be ok. Being wrong or not having the support of others to back up it’s view point (which of course they will eventually differ in opinion to) puts a crack in it’s world view and leaves Little Me feeling small and insecure. My Little Me likes others to agree with it. Having others agree strengthens it I suppose.
Anyway, this morning I was working through the ‘What Meditation Really Is’ teachings and workbook. The reflections asked some really challenging but revealing questions that really helped to expose some of my little ways of thinking. Rinpoche spoke about the essence of the Buddha’s teachings, which can be summarised in 4 lines:
‘Commit not a single unwholesome action, Cultivate a wealth of virtue, To tame this mind of ours, This is the teaching of the Buddha.’
The first, Rinpoche taught, means as much as possible not to harm others, to not hold malice or hatred in our heart. He went on to say ‘to not hold a grudge.’ This struck me deeply, this choice of the word ‘grudge.’ I’ve heard this teaching many times before but not explained in this way. I could see that we harm others when we hold a grudge, even the subtlest resentment towards someone. When we hold a grudge the way we see that person is stained or tainted and unless we can release that (I guess you could even say ‘forgive them’) then your relationship will be marred by that concept you hold of them. We see the world through a hazy screen of assumptions and stories about everything we see, hear, taste, smell, touch and think about, like looking through a windscreen covered in mud, smeared fingerprints and squashed insects. Over time if we don’t clean the windscreen ten eventually we can;t see a thing and we’re driving blind and in he dark in the narrow landscape of Little Me’s making. In our dark, little cave we can’t see the vast and sunny sky that abounds.
I reflected on the email, I had judged that person and was creating a story about their experience of the situation. I was solidifying or creating a tainted perception or a stain through which I would then view that person. Although, it wasn’t too late. I could still let it go. I could just drop the storyline and let things be, give them space and see what came of it. I have made the reconciliatory action. Now I just need to wait (without interference and without craving after a certain outcome) and see what happens. Maybe it will just pass by like clouds in the sky.
The dropping or letting go refers to the 3rd line of the Buddha’s teaching, ‘to tame this mind of ours.’ This, in many ways is the most important because if we can master our own mind then avoiding harming others and creating a wealth of virtue is easy. In fact, if we know how to tame or transform our mind and really let go on a deep and fundamental level then we naturally achieve the others without effort.
So I’ll just sit tight, feeling humbled and grateful once more for these amazing teachings, and wait to see what comes of it and keep watch for those niggling story lines seeking to sneak in and proliferate!