“What You Missed That Day You Were Absent from Fourth Grade” from Everyone at This Party Has Two Names // Brad Aaron Modlin
Mrs. Nelson explained how to stand still and listen on the wind, how to find meaning in pumping gas,
how peeling potatoes can be a form of prayer. She took questions on how not to feel lost in the dark
After lunch she distributed worksheets that covered ways to remember your grandfather’s
voice. Then the class discussed falling asleep without feeling you had forgotten to do something else—
something important—and how to believe the house you wake in is your home. This prompted
Mrs. Nelson to draw a chalkboard diagram detailing how to chant the Psalms during cigarette breaks,
and how not to squirm for sound when your own thoughts are all you hear; also, that you have enough.
The English lesson was that I am is a complete sentence.
And just before the afternoon bell, she made the math equation look easy. The one that proves that hundreds of questions,
and feeling cold, and all those nights spent looking for whatever it was you lost, and one person
add up to something.
“I’ve often felt like the deeper discipline of poetry is overhearing yourself say things you didn’t want to know about the world, something that actually emancipates you from this smaller self out into this larger dispensation that you actually didn’t think you deserved. So one of the things we’re most afraid of in silence is this death of the periphery, the outside concerns, the place where you’ve been building your personality and where you think you’ve been building who you are, starts to atomize and fall apart. It’s one of the basic reasons we find it difficult even just to turn the radio off or the television or not look at our gadget — is that giving over to something that’s going to actually seem as if it’s undermining you to begin with and lead to your demise. The intuition, unfortunately, is correct. You are heading toward your demise, but it’s leading towards this richer, deeper place that doesn’t get corroborated very much in our everyday outer world.”
Robert Thurman and Sharon Salzberg are icons of American Buddhism, and they are joyful, longtime friends. They challenge us to reframe our anger by seeing love for our enemies as an act of self-compassion.
Robert Thurman: There’s a word in Buddhism called “kleshas”—or “klesa” in Pali, “kleshas” in Sanskrit—which comes from a verb root that means “to twist, something to be twisted.” And it’s translated “defilement” or “affliction” by some people. I used to translate it “affliction.”
But the best word for it actually is “addiction.” So anger and obsession, lust, these things are said to be addictions. And that immediately gets the point across. In other words, it’s something that people think is helping them because it gives them a momentary relief from something else. But actually, it’s leading them into a worse and worse place where they’re getting more and more dependent and less and less free.
Krista Tippett: Dependent because the way you’re handling it is then all entangled with the other person?
Robert Thurman: Yes, right. And partly because you believe when anger comes to you, meaning in the form of an impulse that you have internally—“This is intolerable; that person did this; this is like something.” It’s the inner thought that comes, and it seems to come in a way that is undeniable. You have to act on it. So in other words, it takes you over. And that’s where mindfulness can interfere with that by being aware of how your mind works and realizing that it’s just one impulse and it’s one voice within you. And there’s another questioning voice and an awareness voice that can say, “Well, actually, would this be a good idea to blow your top now?”
I always like to say it’s like—otherwise you’re like a TV set that has one channel only and no clicker. If you have the horror show rising up from your solar plexus, then you’re going to have a horror show. Whereas, you can click to the nature show. You can watch the minnows frolicking in the lake in the summer. So I’m saying we are very clickable. We’re very switchable in our moods and minds.
And then the key is, the hopeful thing for some people who like their anger—and some people do like their anger. The hopeful thing is that that energy of heat, kind of like a heat—and actually in Buddhist psychology, anger is connected to intelligence, to analytic and critical intelligence. So that energy—a strong, powerful energy of heat, force—can be ridden in a different way and can be used to heal yourself. It can be used to develop inner strength and determination. And that is really something much to be ambitious for. That is a great, great goal.
More information and the full transcript can be found at OnBeing.org