Reacting, Repressing, and Tea

Is it possible to go through life each day with a "clear mind" and in a "meditative state"? Is it possible to divorce ourselves from the world, or to "be one" with it at all times, repressing the natural urge to react in what we perceive to be a negative response (screaming, crying, shouting, biting...)

The students in the monastery were in total awe of the elder monk, not because he was strict, but because nothing ever seemed to upset or ruffle him. So they found him a bit unearthly and even frightening.

One day they decided to put him to a test. A bunch of them very quietly hid in a dark corner of one of the hallways, and waited for the monk to walk by. Within moments, the old man appeared, carrying a cup of hot tea. Just as he passed by, the students all rushed out at him screaming as loud as they could.

But the monk showed no reaction whatsoever. He peacefully made his way to a small table at the end of the hall, gently placed the cup down, and then, leaning against the wall, cried out with shock, "Ohhhhh!"

I remember my last month in my first Real Apartment. I was 18 and had just lost my job. I scraped up every last bit of cash to be found and brought it to the landlord. How sad for him that it was close to $150 in coins and crumpled dollar bills. He was angry. He shouted. He said things to me that were rude. His behavior scared me. Reacting to it in a negative way (screaming back, being spiteful or cursing at him) wouldn’t solve my immediate issue, and I had indeed paid the full rent and was not in the wrong. Why should I be upset just because his reaction to the form of payment was poor? How he chose to interact with the world was his issue and not mine. I shook off my fear as I walked back to my apartment.

How we react to a situation is important. Human beings tend to let Ego (I!) govern their existence. Our reaction is based upon a sense of self (who doesn’t think they aren’t the center of their own little universe?) and how the self is feeling at any particular time about any particular thing.

Cheri Huber, a student and teacher of Zen for over thirty years, explains it very simply it "That Which You Are Seeking is Causing You to Seek".
I have lost my favorite teacup. I have two choices.
I can have lost my teacup and be miserable.
I can have lost my teacup and be all right.
In either case, the teacup is gone.

Gnashing and wailing won’t make a problem go away. The key is to accept that the problem happened, not punish myself or others for a lost cup, and move on.

In the story at the beginning of this entry, I shared the story of the unflappable monk who wasn’t immediately fazed when the students jumped out and shouted. He didn’t spill a drop of tea. He was aware of the situation and did not react until after he had gone to a table and put his cup down. He then leaned against the wall and cried out with shock.

If we are feeling an emotion but telling ourselves to repress it, then it is repressed and repressing us. We become emotionally or physically unwell. If we are feeling an emotion and choose to cling to it, then it governs us and we live our lives in a state of stress and negate our own well-being. Be gracious enough to allow yourself to feel the emotion and then allow it to fizzle away. New feelings and emotions come along every day, after all. Dwelling on the feeling or situation (picking at scabs!) won't change the past.

“Don’t get scared/angry/sad” won't work. Getting scared or angry is natural. We shouldn't punish ourselves for naturally reacting to our environment.

“Do not be scared/angry/sad” is better. It is okay to feel these emotions as long as we don't allow them to define us and how we will be.  We can be aware that something has occurred and accept that the situation happened.

This line of thinking opens up a whole new possibility: we can cope with the situation itself.

3 responded with...:

Old Egg said...

I like the idea of this. Consider before you react rather than the usual react then bear the consequences. I think as you get older this is easier to do as experience does show you that hasty decisions are often poor ones.

Altonian said...

Good advice all round - or to put it more succinctly, no use in crying over spilled milk.

Jae Rose said...

I love the mixed brew of stories and thought in this sits together beautifully and knowingly..Jae