“In joy and sorrow all are equal, thus be guardian of all, as of yourself.” – Shantideva
Whenever I am stuck in a moment of anger, jealousy, or greed, I ask myself, “What’s it all about, Quigley?” and immediately I am reminded that it is my commitment to become a more compassionate and loving human being.
Yes, well, easier said than done. Taking my practice of yoga and meditation out into the world gave me the opportunity to cultivate my spiritual practice by engendering love in place of anger and intolerance. When we are stuck in our negative thoughts and judgments about another person, we are only harming ourselves. The dark emotions feed our body with stress and tension, and literally can create an acid condition in the blood. The next time you are upset with someone, notice what happens to your mind and body, and then notice how the person you are upset with is just going about his or her life, probably not even aware of the damage you are causing yourself because of your attachment to him or her.
Swami Veda Bharati has an interesting way of expressing this teaching. Your anger is seldom about the object present. Let’s say you are angry with someone in your life. The truth is, the anger is not about that immediate person or the situation. The anger just is. That’s all. For you there is a mental conflict, perhaps something you haven’t resolved from your past. These unresolved emotions or unsatisfied cravings or desires continue to run your life. And whenever an opportunity arises, they jump out and hook the object of your anger. In this way, you are dependent on the person you are angry with. Anger is the worst dependence, just as aversion is the worst attachment. Things you’re averse to, persons you’re antagonistic toward, that’s what you are thinking of all the time.
Instead of thinking of people you love, you are thinking of the people who make you angry and irritate you.
How can something as simple as sitting in meditation and doing nothing lead us toward becoming more compassionate? It gives us space in which to see ourselves and address our pain. In doing so we can better see others’ pain and open our heart to what they are feeling. The Buddhist warrior practice of Tonglon means to exchange yourself for another. As you breathe in the pain and suffering of others, you send out love and happiness to the world. In Tonglon, you take on, through compassion, all the various mental and physical sufferings of all beings: their fear, frustration, pain, anger, guilt, bitterness, doubt, and rage. In exchange, you give them, through love, all your happiness, well-being, peace of mind, healing, and fulfillment.
Buddhist meditation teaches that the purpose to this lifetime is self-realization, which requires that you first clear away the illusion that shrouds your mind in order to perceive the reality of existence.
Amaro Bhikku, renowned spiritual teacher and Buddhist monk, says that, “Patient endurance is to hold steady in the midst of difficulty, to truly apprehend and digest the experience of dukkha, to understand its causes and let them go.” Dukkha translates as suffering, unsatisfactoriness – the inherent insecurity, instability, and imperfection of conditioned phenomena. Combine a limited space with a certain ratio of bodies – a family (all their opinion, experiences, and beliefs, vying for attention and demanding love) – and you have a challenge that requires awareness and a certain amount of respect.