Well, this is certainly an appropriate topic for me this week. The term comes from a tape series I'm listening to. The series is called "The Science of Enlightenment," by Shinzen Young.
As I understand his usage, he's suggesting that equanimity is the art of having our thoughts and feelings -- feeling them fully, expressing them, and then simply letting them go, without judgement. I suppose that's a message I've conveyed in Into the Centre since its inception.
Often, I think, we get it in our heads that we're supposed to be on a path to "get past" our feelings, emotions - the stuff that gets judged to be "baser." We get our shorts twisted into a knot and then we work hard to stuff the feeling, and then get all over ourselves for feeling it in the first place. Sound familiar?
Shinzen is into recommending a life of releasing what we feel. He talks about spiritual masters he knows, and especially when you hear about the Zen ones, they're quite the "out there" guys. They laugh, cry, get angry, shout. Shinzen talks about this being an authentic meditative practice, in a sense, because it is an accurate expression of what the master is feeling at that moment. He notes that the expression is simply a letting out, and is not directed at others in a hurtful way. Afterward, there is no recrimination, self-doubt, or self-hatred.
This is a tough one, simply because our nature, when angry, for example, is to want to blame and then hurt someone else. Or, at least, we want to shift the focus to the behaviour of the other person. And, we likely will beat up on ourselves in the process.
I mention this as being an appropriate topic, because I've certainly caught myself in this drama this week. Dar and I had a long session of conversation this past Monday, in which (she was glad to point out J ) I was doing a lot of lecturing and finger pointing.
Within a few hours of the first go-around, I got a handle on myself and began to own what was really going on. I was feeling sick and fluey, and was looking to be taken care of, and this unfortunately coincided with Dar coming home from school feeling sad and grumpy and looking to be taken care of. The metaphor I pictured was that I wanted to lay my head in her lap and have her say, "There, there, you'll be OK." And she wanted to lay her head in my lap and be grumpy. Needless to say, nothing could happen until one or the other of us decided to "be the pillow."
I would say that we both managed to get through Round One with full expression of what we were feeling, and even managed to keep the blaming language to a minimum. I owned my lecturing, and also held to a place of not beating up on myself for my communication.
Until Round Two.
We had another interesting discussion Friday night. Dar asked for some help sorting out a question she had, and I slid right back into the lecturing. Then, flying in the face of Shinzen's idea of having the feelings and expressing them, I went into an internal blame cycle of shutting down, really hating myself and my life. The drama seemed beyond my control. In truth, I was choosing to stay in my misery and feel helpless. Nevertheless, we kept talking and went to bed having once again resolved our issue, as is our wont.
I got up Saturday morning and found myself right back into the black mood. I even got into thinking I was having a February SAD depression. In the midst of this, as I sulked about the house, I thought of my second best friend in the world, and got into "she hasn't e-mailed me in days." From there, it was a short excursion to, "she's mad at me," to "she hates me." I wrote her an e-mail, which I think was a description of my mood and not too "blamey." But boy, was it whiny. And I was feeling dreadful.
Then, morosely, I decided to clean out my e-mail inbox. To my chagrin, I noticed that she'd actually e-mailed me twice on Thursday, which would be two days ago, this being Saturday. I wrote a quick apology. Because, of course, it wasn't about her.
So, I went off and had a cry. A clean expression, and with no judgement. I still felt like crap, and thought, "I'm stuck forever in this black hole." That's the "attachment to the emotion" piece. I went back to the e-mail. I read a management piece my friend had sent (one of the Thursday e-mails.) - a PowerPoint thing. I quite liked some of it, and found myself smiling. Then, I re-read the piece Debashis wrote, and loved it. I got to thinking that he and I should do some work together. And I was grinning. I was seeing the larger picture.
And just like that, I was out of the black hole. Even had a little dance with Dar, following her lead.
Shinzen is quite accurate. It's not the emotions that tie us in knots. It's the blaming, the stuffing, the refusal to allow, as I said last week, our "stuff" to simply flow through us like poop through a goose. It's my righteousness -- choosing to stay stuck in my anger or sadness or depression, defiantly screaming, "I'll show you! I'll be caught in this muck forever." As opposed to choosing to actually and safely express what's going on by, for example, screaming in the car or with a friend (Hey! Havenites! Dar just had her first Vesuvius last Monday! Send her a note and give her an "Atta girl!"). As opposed to having that big cry and getting through it. As opposed to fully feeling the icy grip of depression, expressing it, but not clinging to it.
Is this easy? No! Of course not! I was feeling, for a total of 8 hours, spread over 2 days, quite miserable. I didn't want to let go of it, in my righteousness. And then, just like that, with an expression of the sadness and a slight shift of focus, I did let go.
Think about it, meditate about equanimity. Breathe into the drama, express the drama, and let it go. Again and again. In the end, we are not supposed to "not feel." We are, as we say again and again, to "not attach."
And thanks to Dar for hanging around with me while I re-learn this lesson!
HOW TO GET THE PERSONAL OUT OF THE POLITICAL IN THE WORKPLACE
by Debashis Dutta
How do you handle the "political" in your work life while maintaining your integrity? It is not always easy to be "personal" with everyone because with differing agendas and different perspectives, a lot of conflict can arise. I like to think that we all have good intentions in what we do. I like to think that we are all open, honest and sincere. However, in situations, this intention of honesty, openness and sincerity, this "personal" part gets reinterpreted by others according their own agenda.
The politics of the workplace is an easy pot in which you can easily allow yourself to get stirred up. When we mix the political with the personal, here is what we typically do: badmouth, crazy-make, assume, justify our own anger and behaviour, make harsh judgements, isolate ourselves, create an "us" and "them" mentality, develop conspiracy theories, look for who’s not doing what, find the ways that we can’t do what we want to do and blame it on others, talk with others to get them to "buy in" to our perception of how things are, and on and on and on.
Sound familiar? This can happen not only at work, but also in so many situations – our family life, personal relationships, and friendships. We expend an inordinate amount of energy, time and emotion in these things, and at the end of it all, nothing is based on reality. It’s only based on our perception and interpretation of events – our own spin on things. As a result, we are somewhat isolated, we have camps, we are suspicious, we lose overall focus, things don’t get done, and most of all, somewhere in there, we don’t feel good.
Wind in the Trees
Just had a neat experience. I was out walking in the woods with our dog Jazz, listening to Ram Dass tapes on my RIO when I heard this loud creaking. I turned to look around to see what it was and spent the next 5 minutes watching the trees. I'd had a rough morning and I guess the cosmos decided to give me a sign.
I watched the trees and thought about life. What a perfect metaphor! I imagined seeing the root systems and thought what a wonderful thing to be so grounded. To be able to stand so tall because the root system was so deep. I thought of Wayne, my friends, and my life experiences as part of the root system in my life. Holding on to those memories and connections provides me with the grounding I want in my life.
I walked over, touched the tree and thought about how strong it was. There was no way I was going to budge that tree even a small amount. I want this strength in my life -- to be who I am no matter what happens around me. I want to be able to stand firm in the midst of any craziness that is going on in day-to-day life.
I remembered the creaking sound and looked up to the tops of the trees and was amazed with the amount of movement I saw. On the ground I could not budge the trees one bit but they gave in so easily to sway in the breeze. Oh, how I would like to experience life that way. Standing firm and grounded yet still allowing myself to sway and go with life experiences rather than fighting against them.
The trees would definitely snap if they were rigid all the way to the top. I remembered how often I fight against life experiences, making them something they are not. A better approach would be to stay grounded in who I am but allow life experiences just to happen -- to go with the breeze of life, allowing it to take me "wherever" -- but never letting go of the roots of who I am.
What a neat gift.