the compassion of truthfulness
One of the things that most nourishes true compassion is clarity—when we know what we are thinking and know what we are feeling. -Sharon Salzberg
If you want to be truly happy, don't lie. Especially, don't lie to yourself.
Guidelines for speech:
If it's not true and not helpful, don't say it.
If its true but not helpful, don't say it.
If it's helpful but not true, don't say it.
If it's true and its helpful, wait for the right time.
When is the 'right' time? When the other person is not feeling defensive, and most importantly, when you can speak without aggression, without blame, then it is the right time.
I was six when I saw that everything was God,... My sister was only a very tiny child then, and she was drinking her milk, and all of a sudden I saw that she was God and the milk was God. I mean, all she was doing was pouring God into God, if you know what I mean.- J.D. Salinger (from the story Teddy)
Our first level of truthfulness is being honest with ourselves. When we are not honest with ourselves, how can be anything but a source of confusion in the world? We are like a person on the top of a mountain, who takes an inaccurate compass reading and walks downhill. Hours later, those few degrees off the mark have become miles away from our intention. Usually we are knocked off course by fear. We are afraid to be ourselves. Every time we hide from the truth, we strengthen the underlying belief that our truth is unsafe, unacceptable.
What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?
The world would split open. -Muriel Rukeyser
Truthfulness, includes not only speaking the truth, but being true to one’s ideal and values as well. -Bhante G
We can make a great effort to live without causing harm.
In the Buddha's lecture a lecture to his 7 year old son, the Buddha instructed Rahula to reflect on cause and effects at three different times.
Reflect before you act: What may be the result of this idea? if I speak these words out loud? or these actions?
Reflect while in the midst of an action: What are the effects of my words? How is this conversation going?
Reflect after: What were the effects of my thoughts, words or actions? What can I learn here?
Some of us wear glasses tinted with catastrophes, victim-hood, anger. Others wear glasses tinted with the rosy lens of denial, masking resentment and anger.
We need to make sure that ...gratitude isn’t based on a “think-pink” attitude—trying to sugarcoat things and pretend that we’re not really feeling critical or negative. It doesn’t help much to paste an artificial expression of gratitude on top of a negative mood or a feeling. - Ajahn Amaro
Sometimes people will develop what looks like compassion but actually it’s submissive appeasing, cultivating “niceness” or wanting to be nice to be liked....compassion is first and foremost about honesty, tolerating and understanding our feelings. -Paul Gilbert
What is truthful, is not always obvious, sometimes it takes time, and sometimes we will never really know. Sometimes our craving for an resolution makes us believe there is an answer to our question, and yet it remains elusive. We can be open and patient with our own confusion and vulnerability, its helpful to everyone.
Harlan, she said. "I don't even know what an Indian is supposed to be. How could you know?" Well that's the thing he said. I wrote these poems because I wanted to know. They weren't statement of fact, they were more like questions. "But Harlan, that's what poetry is for. Its supposed to be about questions... Her confusion was the best thing she could offer. ...She knew the name of her tribe, the name of her archaic clan, and her public Indian name, and her secret Indian name, but everything else she knew about Indians was ambiguous and transitory. -Sherman Alexie
Even when being truthful is most difficult, it is liberating.
When you are in an emotionally rocky state, the most skilful response may simply be to receive what you are feeling at the present moment with some clarity and sympathy; to sit quietly and allow things to blow through. Whatever the state, the initial response has to be to stay present and cultivate spaciousness. - Ajahn Sucitto
At the end of the Book of Job, God sort of shows Job the ultimate Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom video with lions ripping apart gazelles and vultures tearing carrion and hailstorms and earthquakes... And then God says to Job, `What do you think of that? ...Hope you like it because I'm in that, too. - Rabbi L. Kushner
Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions...Who provides for the raven its prey, when its young ones cry to God for help, and wander about for lack of food? Book of Job
Truth is protective, it protects us from the remorse of deception, it safeguards from delusion.
Things that are real pose no danger to the mind. The real dangers in the mind are our delusions, the things we make up, the things we use to cover up reality, the stories, the preconceived notions we impose on things.
When you really look, you see the truth. If you're true in your looking, the truth appears. Only when you strip away all the unreality in your mind will you find in what's left that there's nothing to fear.
There are no dangers. There's just reality meeting with reality, truth meeting with truth.... That's where this simple exercise of watching your breath, adjusting your breath, and watching it again can take you, if you really follow it all the way through. -Thanissaro Bhikkhu
thanks for reading!
Thanissaro Bhikkhu will be in Bellingham!
September 10-11, Retreat with Thanissaro Bhikkhu
the suffering and grace of patience
In our Monday evening practice group, we are in the midst studying a traditional group of skillful qualities, this week it's patience. The root of the word "pati" means to suffer, and in English patience has the connotations of not-so-pleasant, a virtue requiring fortitude and endurance. Its opposite, impatience, is defined as irritation, annoyance, agitation, even more unpleasant!
Patience is mindfulness with an edge, mindfulness that can focus around a specific challenging point. Impatience is a teacher! Buddhist teachings describe patience as a powerful antidote to anger.
Many people think that to be patient in bearing loss is a sign of weakness. I think this is a mistake. It is anger that is a sign of weakness, whereas patience is a sign of strength. For example, a person arguing a point based on sound reasoning remains confident and may even smile while proving his case. On the other hand, if his reasons are unsound and he is about to lose face, he gets angry, loses control and starts talking nonsense. People rarely get angry if they are confident in what they are doing. - HH Dalai Lama
A recent study found a correlation between shortened telomeres, ( the protective ends on chromosomes which shorten as we age) and the character trait of impatience. Those of us who want to live faster, might be ageing sooner.
Impatience steals time, it doesn't make time. Tara Brach tells the moving story of a young mother diagnosed with an aggressive cancer. She recovered to a deeper appreciation of her life, the experience of illness taught her she "has no time to rush".
How to 'practice' patience? Notice impatience, notice the hot quality of its anger and frustration. With all of your kindness, don't give in. Honor your deeper desire to be present for life as it is. For a moment, allow yourself to let go of the feeling it 'should' be faster.
You’ve expressed your anger so many times, you know where it will lead. The desire to say something mean, to gossip or slander, to complain—to just somehow get rid of that aggression—is like a tidal wave. But you realize that such actions don’t get rid of the aggression; they escalate it. So instead you’re patient, patient with yourself.... there is no resolution. The resolution that human beings seek comes from a tremendous misunderstanding. In working with patience and fearlessness, we learn to be patient with the fact that we’re human beings, that everyone who is born and dies from the beginning of time until the end of time is naturally going to want some kind of resolution to this edgy, moody energy.... Pema Chodron
Thank you for reading!
Please join us on Mondays or schedule a private appointment for personal guidance in deepening your practice, or to begin mindfulness training. MBSR classes will being in the Fall firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Monday evening practice group at the Methow Valley Wellness Center has grown up! It began as a direct outgrowth, of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Course. Each week I offer reflections on a specific topic, this blog is an excerpt. The process of preparing the talk has become an important dimension of my practice, for which I am deeply grateful.
I draw reflections from the psychological and philosophical aspects of Buddhist teachings, and a wide range of Western psychology, evolutionary psychology, neuro-science, and culture. I try to leave a few minutes for questions. Questions asking me to clarify the teachings are welcomed! Scheduling a private appointment is the best way to explore personal issues, or to generally deepen practice.