Sunday, January 26, 2014

Upset in Real Life

cartoon reprinted from The New Yorker

For about a year, this blog was being reprinted on another website.  Not being a big star of the "interweb", as one of my young friends calls it, I appreciate the few readers I have, and every once in a while, someone comments on something I've written.

I was surprised that no-one ever commented on the reprinted blog entries, so I decided to check in and have a look to see if they were actually there.  And I discovered that people were indeed commenting on them -- it's just that this particular site doesn't moderate comments, and I wasn't set up to receive them in any case.  I've learned that this is a fairly common practice.

My biggest surprise, though, was the tone of the comments, nasty and confused, for the most part.  And the writers were all talking to each other, not to me.  My writing was a starting point for endless arguments about all things Dharma and Zen.  Everyone who wrote in hid behind a fake name, so there was no way for me to respond without adding to the public hoopla.

Chagrined and disappointed, I asked the person who maintains the site to remove my blog, which he did graciously and quickly.  But not before defending the style of the blog comments as a part of free speech, something he believes in very strongly.

As of course, do I.  But I have to say that I'm a fan of open, civil and transparent discourse.  Sometimes we strongly disagree with others, but we don't have to make a hobby of argument.  Nor do we need to hide our identity if there's something important we want to say.

And as they say on the interweb, this is just imho.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Teaspoon of Salt

One of my favorite metaphors for dealing with suffering is to compare the intensity of our pain to a teaspoon of salt.  When we put the salt in a small glass, the water is very salty.  When we put the same amount in a large bowl, the water is less salty.  And when we pour it into a lake, it doesn't do very much to change the saltiness of the lake water.

Having a big container (Joko Beck called this the ABC of Zen practice -- A Bigger Container) doesn't mean that we minimize or ignore our pain.  But held with a spacious view, we may find that our suffering can be borne just a wee bit more than we ever thought possible.  We even develop the capacity to touch the great pain of the world.  Rather than turn away, we can turn towards it, and then act in a way that takes it into account.

Recently, one of my students, Bob Waldinger, sent me this photo of the landscape of Patagonia, with the following comment: "When suffering arises, this is the kind of place that overwhelms that little teaspoon of salt."  Thanks for the photo and the thought, Bob!