Thursday, February 16, 2006

Be Still

Yesterday I was rushing around to help get my wife out the door. She had a huge interview she was conducting that day (she's a writer by trade). Understandably, she was concerned about nailing it.

Everything was going smoothly until we were packing up the car, and things got heated. She was getting nervous, and when she gets nervous, her tolerance for mistakes goes south. Things came to a head over a silly dispute over where the car keys had gone. She left without either of us saying, "I love you."

I told myself I had forgotten about it, but that I needed to talk to her about the incident once she got home. I mean, come on - it's only for her own good that I let her know how badly she fucked up, right? When she came home that night and got upset because I hadn't done something she requested a few hours earlier, I took this as my cue to complain about how I was being treated "as your assistant, and not as your husband."

"Have you been holding on to this all day?" she asked.

"Of course not!" I scoffed. But internally, I had heard my mind yell, "Of COURSE I have! I demand an apology, dammit!"

And that's when I knew I had been hooked.

Trungpa Rinpoche talked often about how wiley the ego is. It's skilled at reverse alchemy. In an instant, it can transmute our most golden spiritual intentions into base metal. It doesn't matter who was right and who was wrong over the silly dispute about the keys. What matters is that, by getting hooked, I became a participant in the situation spiraling out of control. By hunkering down in my ego and defending my sense of self, rather than shrugging off her blunt tone and her impatience, I helped perpetuate her nervousness.

What would have been the compassionate approach? To ask myself, "Why is she feeling this way? Is there anything I can do to relieve that feeling? Or should I just remain even-minded, and be the most help I can be at this moment?" The situation didn't necessarily demand that I call her on anything; in fact, that would have been nothing but more ego-dancing. ("Look at how spiritual I'm being!") The situation called for me to be still.

I'm learning (slowly) not be beat myself up over such failures. Instead, I try and flip them around and use them to inculcate compassion. If it's hard for me, with my dedication to Buddhism, to overcome ego, I can only imagine how hard it is for others!

Hmmm - why does this seem so familiar ;-/
LOL :-)
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