At 8am this morning, as I was peacefully absorbed in meditation, someone honked their horn very loudly. There was a pause, then they did it again. Another pause, and then a loud banging at my door.
I open it in my dressing gown, and a (watch this instant prejudice…) brash looking man in a shiny suit and slicked-back hair abruptly demands: “I’m here to pick up Yvonne.” I say I don’t know Yvonne. “She’s a laaaarge girl”, he offers, with (un)helpful hand gestures. My Simone de Beauvoir instincts kick in: “Do you mean a large girl or a large woman? In any event I don’t know any large or small women or girls by that name around here. And might I suggest that you don’t blow your horn so loudly…” (adding silently “…you’re not the only human being around here you know!”) and then “Oh, my cat has got out…” (adding silently “…because of you.”)
So as you can see from my responses, an irritation had arisen. Great fodder for meditation! Excellent timing for my morning session! Mr. Honk only appears irritating to me due to karma I’ve created in the past and is a reflection of my own faults of thoughtlessness and self-cherishing. Not everyone who bangs on my door early morning or late at night irritates me after all – most, I’m happy to say, don’t, including Jehovah’s witnesses, tenants who have lost their keys again, and, the other night, a totally drunk homeless guy whom I offered a place to stay for a few hours to get him out of the cold. (Don’t worry, dear landlords, if you are reading this, I took his social security card off him first). Back in meditation I did not have to go back far, sadly, to see how I share Mr. Honk’s apparent faults — for example I yell for my cat to come in, “ROUSSEAU!!!”, (which may be why, come to think of it, everyone around here knows his name), and I shout out a question for someone instead of bothering to go find them, etc. Not only that, but Mr. Honk may have had all sorts of extenuating circumstances that could cause me to go easy on him, as they would cause me to go easy on me if I was in his position – like, for example, Yvonne being in dire need of a blood transfusion.
Not focusing on others’ faults doesn’t mean that we never recognize they have delusions (uncontrolled, unpeaceful minds) or develop the wish to help them overcome these – our mistake is conflating the person with the delusions. As my teacher says:
It is because they distinguish between delusions and persons that Buddhas are able to see the faults of delusions without ever seeing a single fault in any living being. Consequently, their love and compassion for living beings never diminish. ~ Transform Your Life, p 131
There is clearly far more to Mr. Honk than his seeming thoughtlessness – for all I know he was going out of his way to help Yvonne, large as she is, and he is probably a VERY NICE MAN. At any rate, he is not his delusions, even if he has any, and my relating to him as such for those moments by the front door didn’t help either of us. I lost an opportunity to be helpful. He helped me though, as it turns out, by serving as a mirror. Thank you Mr. Honk, I owe you 🙂
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Great post. I have to laugh because just a few months ago I complained to my teacher that during my lunch meditation my boss would interrupt me even though I would post a sign saying lunchtime meditation. I would get so angry. As I said it out loud I realized how funny that was. Meditating on compassion and wanting to scream with annoyance at the slightest disturbance.
Thanks for sharing.
Maybe we should post a sign “DELUSIONS AT WORK” on the door instead of “Meditation in Progress”
I was meditating this morning when the little bird parked outside my window and had the most beautiful song. Of course, after 5 minutes the song was an irritant! After 10 minutes, I wished that bird would fly away, beautiful song and all. Oh no is that anger? It can’t be – not blissful me! The bell rang – meditation over – how could that be! What a great teacher that little bird was!!
It’s all a momentary karmic appearance to mind, and our spiritual guide giving us a little push along the path. Good one Luna 🙂
Good comment 🙂
Hi Luna! I wanted to say thanks for your work on this blog. Every entry gives me something to think about. Having the benefit of your learning is invaluable. Just today I was meditating and a car pulled up outside with music blaring. Instead of getting annoyed or distracted I remembered your advice and thought of a flower of love growing in my heart. I will never think about distractions in the same way! So thanks again. Mike
Thanks Mike. That flower story made a lasting impression on me, i first heard it decades ago but have referred to it ever since. I’m glad you like it too.
Hi Luna, Lovely teaching. Hey, no one can deny Kadampa Buddhism is inseparable from daily life! You in your dressing gown and the cat escaping as Mr Honk forces his way into your consciousness. Instead of looking in the wardrobe mirror and venting your irritation, you look in the mirror of Dharma. I rejoice. Let’s see our own faults first. I love it.
The Lama’s example is such a beautiful teaching, too. Thank you very much for sharing that. His response is a reflection of his beautiful mind. Really inspiring.
Hi Jan, this particular green plaid dressing gown also reminds me of Sue Hulley, whom I wrote about recently, because one day i mentioned in passing, goodness knows why, that i had lost the belt. She asked me to describe the dressing gown, and then unbeknownst to me she went shopping all over the place for the exact same material, which she then sewed into a new belt. So, my old frayed dressing gown is a daily reminder to me of kindness, and I like wearing it 😉
Hi Luna, I’m also reminded of a recent teaching by Gen-la Dekyong who said simply ‘We have always been seeing the faults in others. Where has that got us?’. I’ll answer for myself: stuck in misery. May we all be freed. Thanks again, Luna, for helping and inspiring me along the Path.
when children are being noisy
say to self….how wonderful! the kids are having a great time, enjoying themselves
it works yes it does….. if you really mean it
Yes! It’s like the Lama I just mentioned in the last comment 🙂
Great advice. Definitely something I’m going to actively work on!
ur welcome but note
i’m incompetent at this stuff x
A useful and timely post for me – thank you! I’ve been a ‘casual’ meditator for some years but have only recently begun trying to build daily meditations into my routine, as I’ve come to learn about Buddhist teachings. I currently live in a rather small apartment where space and privacy are at a premium. Even when I can successfully barricade myself into a room (or wardrobe!), it’s near to impossible to drown out the sounds of my family even with the use of earplugs and headphones. I confess, irritation (bordering on anger) has sometimes resulted. However, I’ve gradually come to understand that the perfect conditions for meditation don’t really exist and, instead, when noises occur during my practice, I simply attempt to maintain my focus on my object of meditation and allow any thoughts about the distractions to pass, like any others. I also try to generate a feeling of love and acceptance towards the noise-generators (usually my family) and not allow myself to focus on what I see (at that point in time) as their faults.
I found what you write here particularly helpful: “Mr. Honk only appears irritating to me due to karma I’ve created in the past and is a reflection of my own faults of thoughtlessness and self-cherishing”. This is something that I will reflect on more at times of irritation which I know will be helpful.
As an aside, I must say, I do enjoy your choices of pictures and their labels both in general and in particular in this post. Agent Smith, Buddha and Borat are quite a mix!
I once heard about a Tibetan Lama who, whenever he heard a noise in meditation, said that it felt like “a flower growing in his heart”, reminding him of the existence of others and his love for them. I have always found this helpful when meditating in noisy environments.
I’m glad you like the pictures — I was quite chuffed with the ones in this article too 😉
I hadn’t heard that before. I like the idea of being reminded of the existence of others and of ones love for them, that is extremely helpful. Thank you kindly.
Wonderful. Your story fits well with our Dharma talk in Los Gatos last night. You reiterate a point that was made by one of the students during the Q&A time. That is: how oblivious we are to the behavior that might inconvenience or irritate others… as long as it is OUR behavior. “They should understand that I’ve had a bad day.” “Can’t they see that I’m in a hurry?”
I don’t honk, but I’m pretty sure that recently I used a long stride to put myself ahead in a line at the supermarket and rationalized my sulky behavior by saying it was caused by someone else. Thank you for the reminder that everyone is doing their best to be happy while subject to countless unknowable causes and conditions. It feels so much better to understand that than to feel anger.
What a great line: “That is: how oblivious we are to the behavior that might inconvenience or irritate others… as long as it is OUR behavior.” !
And you’re so right, it does feel altogether better to understand than to feel anger. (Look, i’m just repeating you, you are so spot on :-))