Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Teaching

So here I sit, wondering about what the teaching might be, about those light bulbs I was writing about yesterday. And about the new problem that came up only a few minutes later, when our whole telephone system went haywire--on precisely the day when I had telephone interviews scheduled and appointments made. I call out, and my voice can't be heard at the other end of the line. I hear my respondent saying Hello, hello, hello, but they clearly don't hear me.

Okay, first the anger. That's the initial response to these glitches that occur in life--having mostly to do with technology, of course, or with home maintenance. I suppose the truth is that I'm not good with chaos. I like things to do what they're supposed to do, and would wish to live in a universe where order was assured. Unfortunately, that happens not to be the universe I live in. Perhaps one day I'll wake up and find myself on such a planet, but here on Earth... not going to happen. The anger, though triggered by real events, is in fact as irrational as most emotions: I do know, somewhere in the recesses of what I like to think of as an intelligent brain, that such displeasing events are not of my own making and, in many cases, beyond my ability to correct. In dire cases, I call in Joe the gardener, as I did yesterday, or some person better equipped than I to fix the problem. But in the meantime I know too that I can choose to cling on to the anger and make it worse, or simply watch it grow and dissipate, as it surely will. The difficulty arises in the disconnect between that knowledge and its implementation. I have learned the proper tool: the breath. And there are times when I do indeed manage to rise above the situation and watch it from the comfortable viewpoint of equanimity. But it's hard...

Then there's the panic. I'm obsessively punctual. When the appointed time comes for me to call and I pick up the phone and the phone doesn't work, the panic immediately sets in. I'll be late. I may miss my appointment altogether. What will this person think of me? I imagine her sitting there, awaiting the call with the kind of impatience I myself would be feeling at this moment, and projecting all kinds of bad thoughts in my direction! What kind of a flake is this Peter, who said he'd call at noon? The panic spreads--subtly, though; I'm not throwing fits, but I can feel it as it permeates the body--and threatens to take control. So here again is the teaching moment. Breathe. Acknowledge that mistakes can happen, frequently do, and that reparations are always possible, post facto. If I can't control the situation, at least I can do something to control the way the mind reacts to it. The mind wants to be my tyrant, but I have learned to make it my friend, also, my collaborator not my enemy.

It's a slow process, this learning. I have to relearn each lesson so many times, and even when I think I have it down, I watch myself slip back into the old reactive patterns. It's good, though, to have acquired at least a glimmering of the wisdom that the Buddha taught--lessons that are as relevant and vital today as when he taught them, so many centuries ago.

(Readers: Please note that John Torcello, a regular reader and frequent commentator on The Buddha Diairies, has just released a new ebook called Torcello: Reflections on an Affirmative Path 3, the third in a series of free-verse collections. I'm happy to help him spread the word, and wish him congratulations on his publication, and good luck.)


John Torcello said...

Thanks so much for the mention, Peter...BTW, is a valuable site for those wishing to publish their writing for release in various e-Book formats. They are currently, with properly formatted titles, re-licensing titles from their site for distribution not only at their own site, but also at the Barnes&Noble, Sony eReader and Canada's e-stores...

Romany said...

Peter - Thanks for your bare bones honesty; it reassures that one is not alone learning these lessons again, again, again.

Rich Bruland, who like me is temporarily in Sedona, says the men's retreat he attended with his son served them both well. Rich originally directed me to your site.

Thanks again - Dennis Asmussen

Gary said...

Breathing is the wreath of calm.

I used to feel great peace when my hair was cut. The barber was an Italian man who never stopped humming his favorite opera while first massaging my head with lavender oil then the snipping began in perfect pitch with the ring of the scissors flying blades and I was a peace with the world and could float throughout the small village where I lived like a wisp of scented smoke finding soft infinity in the 20 minutes.

I think it is good to just use as much natural light to avoid the grid and get the vitamin D. I try like hell not to turn on lights at night other than those for reading.

Not repeating our histories is our fundamental human condition and knowing that others are as anxious about getting over it as I am gives me hope.

mandt said...

Peter, one feels there is a fire building in you---let it flame and make art!

PeterAtLarge said...

You're welcome, John. And thanks for the tip.

Good to hear from you, Romany, and thanks for the kind words. I hope you'll be back again to visit.

Gary, yes! But those light bulbs are still needed! Until we find a better way...

MandT, thanks. I'm fanning away..! One of these days, I think, I should get back to poetry, where I started out.

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