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Truthfulness has always been very important to me. It’s something which I valued long before I came across the Dharma. So I was quite struck when Vajragupta suggested the opportunity to practice truthfulness when the winds of Praise and Blame are blowing. Praise and Blame are the Worldly winds I notice most in my experience, or perhaps the ones I am blown about by most strongly.
So I started to reflect on this - how might truthfulness help me when I am experiencing the winds of Praise and Blame? I think a particular opportunity for me is to practice truthfulness when I feel blamed. This can occur for me particularly in more personal interactions in close relationships - I can feel a lot of shame if I feel blamed: I can get defensive and be unable to look truthfully at my own experience and tendencies - to really honestly look at whether there is something unskilful I am bringing to the communication.
There’s a real opportunity to practice this right now, in the very particular conditions of being in a lockdown and in the midst of a global crisis. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed this last week that my patience is a bit lower and my unskilful tendencies have been a bit closer to the surface than usual in this time of potential pressure and a lack of physical space. Of course, this not only affects me, but also those around me (in person and in virtual spaces).
An example - someone says something to me and I feel a bit hurt. But I quickly move past the hurt without really acknowledging it and into harsh and sharp speech towards them - I want to pass the blame. Really, I want them to know that I’m hurt, but it’s a bit too late for that - we’re stuck in a dynamic where I am a bit defensive and sharp and they are defensive and sharp back to me. They ask me to look at what I might be bringing to the situation, rather than just passing all the blame to them… I get furious at this suggestion! I feel blamed.
So what’s the truth in this situation? It is probably true that I don’t intend to hurt the other person… I just want them to know I’m hurt, but I’m unable to say that in a straightforward and undefended way! So it’s true that I feel hurt, although I can’t quite acknowledge that when I feel a bit tight and defended. I usually also feel shame that I might have “done something wrong” by hurting the other person with my speech and this shame manifests as more defensiveness. Oh dear!
So how can truthfulness be a teacher or an opportunity to me in this example? When I’m able to pause and connect with how valuable truthfulness is to me, then it strengthens my aspiration to want to practice it more, even in relation to my own shortcomings… Hopefully this leads to me softening and acknowledging what I’m bringing to a situation and then apologising. This is the aspiration!
What can also help is bringing to mind someone I admire, as suggested by Vajragupta. Who do I know who is able to acknowledge their shortcomings easily and lightly, without over-identifying with them or thinking it means they’re a terrible person?! Can I bring them to mind when I am feeling tight, defensive and feeling shame that I’ve done wrong? How might they easily acknowledge the truth in a situation like this?
Yet another approach is to bring to mind the great opportunity that my current conditions allow for me to reflect on the Worldly Winds. It is true that my suffering, although real, is a fraction of the pain and suffering that others around the globe are currently experiencing. It is true that I am extremely fortunate to be in such good conditions, where I can freely practice the Dharma. It is true that I have so much to be grateful for.
Feel free to share any of your personal reflections on the material here - where do you think the opportunity is for practice for you within the Worldly winds? Do you relate to the idea of the Worldly Winds as teachers?
We look forward to hearing your thoughts around this area!