A monk decides to meditate alone, away from his monastery. He takes his boat out to the middle of the lake, moors it there, closes his eyes and begins his meditation.
After a few hours of undisturbed silence, he suddenly feels the bump of another boat colliding with his own. With his eyes still closed, he senses his anger rising, and by the time he opens his eyes, he is ready to scream at the boatman who dared disturb his meditation.
But when he opens his eyes, he sees it’s an empty boat that had probably got untethered and floated to the middle of the lake.
At that moment, the monk achieves self-realization, and understands that the anger is within him; it merely needs the bump of an external object to provoke it out of him.
From then on, whenever he comes across someone who irritates him or provokes him to anger, he reminds himself, “The other person is merely an empty boat. The anger is within me.”
Ghandi’s grandson, Arun Ghandi,
by way of Sue Harshbarger
To be alive in the world of today is to be in discomfort. People’s fuses are short, traffic behavior is more and more pushy and selfish. Battles of power and racism and sexism, some masked, some out in the open, are being played out on the national and international stage. Fear seems to be in the air. Anger seems more and more to be a choice in dealing with those who disagree with us. The fight/flight mechanism is in overdrive. We all feel it. We all are at the effect of the collective experience.
And there always is some one or some group ‘over there’ we can blame for the way it feels to be me in this moment.
These feelings live within us. They are not there because of that man or that country or that group of people of a different color skin or different genitalia or different political bent. These sensations of discomfort that we process as anger and fear and the need to attack are the expected animal response to a world as diverse and seemingly-out of control as this one we inhabit. To know this is to cease being at the mercy of. To own this as our truth is to be able to find freedom for ourselves, regardless of the doings on the planet. To recognize that we are spirit having a human/body-based experience is to find comfort in the discomfort, compassion for ourselves and compassion for all these billions of others who are having the exact same experience as are we.
Today I will spend my 20 minutes meditating, morning and evening and I will make a point to feel these sensations in my body, rather than to listen to the voice in my head that tells me who is to blame for my discomfort and what I must do to make them stop. I will ask of some power other than my small self to show me how I might find compassion for myself and others in this extremely difficult task of being a loving human in a world that seems anything other than supportive of that.
Toy Cattle, DTPC Los Angeles