The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It Isn’t Yours To Own

On Friday night, when the world prepared to slip under its bedcovers, I stepped out on my balcony and opened one of my favourite books - A Lotus Grows In the Mud. When I first chanced upon it at a book sale, I gave it a cursory glance, mainly because it is an autobiography of Goldie Hawn. Shallow and rich with self-glorification, I thought. Yet, I found myself coming back to it and eventually decided that a light read wouldn’t hurt. I stayed up for two nights lost in its pages, my heart alternately swelling and squeezing. By the time I ran my eyes over the last sentence, A Lotus Grows In The Mud had become a guiding light for me. I later lent it to The Healer, who devoured it with the same passion, reading out snippets to her fiancé during their nightly long-distance phone calls.

Now I have picked it up again because I am in need of its wisdom. In the chapter, Altered State, I found it.

“Dr. Gearson also helped me deal with my success. He helped me understand that the adoration or unkind criticism wasn’t mine to own. That it was all about how other people perceived me to be, not how I really was. I needed to take no responsibility other than just being a Rorschach test, an inkblot that others interpreted whichever way they needed to.

The key is to learn to respect and honour the complications of other people’s lives. It allows me not to identify personally with others’ perceptions or to become wrapped up in my own defenses against them. If someone tells me “I love you,” it should carry no weight than if they say “I hate you.” I give them back their joy; I give them back their anger. My truth remains detached from theirs.”

This morning, I had brunch with The Captain and he told me of an abusive text message he had received from an acquaintance who had over-reacted over a misunderstanding. I marvelled at his cool, amusement over the attack.

“Because it doesn’t belong to me,” he said. “He has chosen to react that way, so the anger belongs to him. I have no power or responsibility over it. What I do have control of is my response to him and this is how I choose to respond. It’s easy to deal with such situations when you remember that the other person’s words and actions belong to them and not to you.”

I mulled over his and Goldie’s words on the drive home and wondered how I could apply it to my little conundrum. I have recently amassed a tidy little collection of mistakes for which I am being tongue-lashed. Being someone who has long lived to please, I am taking it hard. How then can I let the words of others belong to them without relinquishing responsibility for my slip-ups? How can I give them back their disdain, anger and disgust even when I am also being judged in my own eyes? How can I let my truth remain detached from theirs while making sure that I am not running from the truth? And how do I become more self-aware, more enlightened and more connected with my own mind in the process?

I have decided to begin at the only logical place right now; acceptance. So I accept that I have made imperfect choices that have caused deep hurt and disappointment. I accept that many people may no longer choose to remain in my sphere, as a result of those choices. I accept that I cannot please myself and other people. I accept the possibility that I could be the naive, self-centred, cruel person that I have been told I am. I accept that my actions will one day come full circle. And I accept responsibility for my actions and the consequences it brings.

This acceptance doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make the pain less searing. Nor does it liberate me completely from the anger-tipped arrows of others. But it has opened a hidden window just a crack and a tiny scoop of their anger has slipped out to make its way back to them.

This is just a start. But least I am somewhere.


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