Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What's discipline got to do with it?

I hate Dallas. I hate Dallas with a fiery hate equal to the temperature on this August afternoon outside the terminal at Love Field where I'm waiting for an airport-to-hotel shuttle.

I hate Dallas. That's a broad statement, but it's the kind of thing I tend to say, consigning an entire city or category of things to the trash bin of "unpleasant experience." Tofu. Humidity. Feta cheese.

And I don't mean it. It's what Tsoknyi Rinpoche calls "real, but not true." If I look closely at the causes and conditions that give rise to the thought "I hate Dallas," what is there is not a concrete lump of hate for a whole city but discomfort with being hot, hungry, unsure of what will happen next.



The groundlessness of being in a space that's neither here nor there.

I want to be back at the retreat center I left a few hours earlier. I want to be home with my spouse. I just don't want to be in a 16-hour layover at Dallas-Forth Worth airport, waiting for a shuttle.

I'd been reading Tsoknyi Rinpoche's "Open Heart Open Mind" on the plane that brought me to Dallas, and I'd just read a section on how to work with difficult people. Rinpoche's one-word prescription: Discipline.

It takes discipline, one of the paramitas -- or perfections of the heart -- to stay with the difficult feelings, to accept that they are your feelings, and to see them as the impermanent, ephemeral things they are instead of treating them like a slab of marble, carving a statue, and writing a story that's engraved on a plaque to justify the whole thing.

I don't hate Dallas. I dislike how I feel at the moment, when I happen to be in Dallas.

When I see that, I see space around my feelings, space in which I know everything will be OK. The shuttle will come or I'll walk upstairs and get a cab. The hotel will be air-conditioned. I'll find food.

It's a similar process in working with a difficult person in metta meditation. When you tease out your feelings about this person, about their behavior, from the human being, you can see that they are just  getting through the day. It becomes easier to send lovingkindness -- the wish that they will be safe, happy, healthy, and live with ease -- when you see them as human rather than a monument to their irritating qualities. You don't have to like them or what they do, just see their humanity. Address yourself to their humanity, not their irritating qualities. You may find those qualities become less important and less irritating.

And then you can rest in that space, finding comfort wherever you are.

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