Friday, April 6, 2012

Hide and Seek

I have been studying the Dharma for about 1 ½ years now.  Not a longtime in the land of Buddhism.  The further I head down the Eightfold Path, the more I realize how much I do not know which both intrigues and frustrates me.  How much further until I reach Enlightenment?  My brain struggles with the concept there is nothing to track and no goal to achieve.  Are we there yet?  We are supposed to have "it" already—we are already there, but we need to wake up to be there--well, here.  For the record, if I were to assign myself a so called level to track my progress on the Eightfold Path, I am officially a Buddhist with training wheels. 

I have come to realize the hard work in Buddhism comes in with the hidden, secret and unseen attachments.  I used to teach report writing to Human Resource (HR) employees.  This was back in the days of mainframe computers, when writing a report required Coding 101.  In my 22 years of supporting HR in some technical capacity, I have come to realize HR is full of bright, people-people, but they tend not to be the most technically savvy folks in the world.  I had to translate the technical jargon into layman terms.  Teaching them about data and reporting was a tough job since it required me to translate the "gray matter" of data over into something tangible.  I often used baking cookies as an analogy to bring writing a report into something they could touch, smell and understand.  However, for many it took some hands-on trial, error and time to truly understand the meaning of each step required to write a report. 

Understanding the Dharma has been much like learning report writing for me.  There are those tangible things, like my attachment to coffee which is easy, but our minds like to play hide and seek with the "gray".  It is really easy to see attachments in others and not see them in yourself.  However, if you begin observing your thoughts, the hidden attachments will begin to bubble up and present themselves.

It was a call yesterday with my mother that prompted me to write this blog post.  My mom lives alone and I let her use our daily morning call as her time to tell me anything that pops into her head.  On this call, she was gossiping about my sister who was in turn gossiping about me.  My sister made a remark about me.  I was bothered by the fact my mother was gossiping, but she always gossips.  I knew gossiping was not productive, but I allowed it anyway.  In a sneaky way egged her on so I could hear what my sister said about me.  After hearing all of this, big surprise, my feelings were hurt and I began to stew over whether or not to call my sister to tell her off.  Instead, I decided to go to the book store to explore the Buddhism section for the answer.  How do I handle my family and their unkind behaviors?  How do I handle judgment from others regarding my Buddhist practice?  It was the book The Places that Scare You that caught my attention.  Without opening the book, a Pema Chodron like voice echoed in my head the words “It does not matter what everyone thinks.  Their behavior and thoughts do not matter.  Only what you think matters since it is your thoughts making you upset.  You know the truth.  Observe what you are feeling and learn from this.”  I realize there is a part of me seeking my sister’s approval for what I do.  In fact, I seek approval, acceptance and love from others all of the time.  I revealed an attachment that was playing hide and seek within my ego.  The light bulb went off that the only person I need to gain approval, acceptance and love from is me.   Once I have my approval, nothing else matters.  I think a little personal metta practice is in order. 

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