Tag Archives: buddhism

Shades Of Gray

by Bill

A poor self-image is connected to low self-esteem, and self-image is one of the biggest negative issues in recovery.  In order to recover, we need to avoid defining ourselves in terms of our “character defects” and “shortcomings.”  Yes, when working on the 4th and 5th Steps we need to consider these things, but as any good sponsor will tell you, we also list and discuss the good things about ourselves.  It’s not all one-way.  We bring positives to the table as well as negatives.

To think of ourselves in terms of the things we need to change gives them power.  Constantly dwelling on them makes them seem insurmountable.  It causes us to live in the past, which we can’t change, or in the future, which we can’t predict or control.  In recovery, our goal is to live in today (“Yesterday’s history; tomorrow’s a mystery”), and that’s really hard to do when we’re focused on the “things we cannot change” rather than changing the things we can.

Skillful or Unskillful?

Everyone has made mistakes, is making them daily, and will make plenty more in the future.  It’s part of the human condition.  God is the only being who is mistake-free (we won’t mention mosquitos), and we aren’t him, her or it.  Rather than focusing on the things we’ve messed up in the past and worrying about whether we’ll be able to do better in the future, we need to stay in the present and concentrate on our good qualities.  We can appreciate our abilities, whatever they may have been, and also those we are learning.  If we are angry and are able to recognize it and deal with it, isn’t that a huge accomplishment?  Celebrate it!

A couple of nights ago I was explaining to a sponsee the Buddhist concept of “skillful” and “unskillful” thoughts and deeds.  Buddhists don’t think of things as right or wrong, black or white.  The idea of one act condemning an otherwise pretty decent person to perdition isn’t part of their world view.  Instead, they think of thoughts and behavior as being skillful or unskillful.

If I am skillful at something, I can appreciate my skills.  Others may be more skillful, and some days I may not be skillful at all, but if I blow it I have a world of opportunity to do it better the next time.  If I am unskillful (instead of — say — bad or sinful) I simply determine that I will do better the next time, make any repairs or amends that I need to, and get on with life.  I’m not bogged down in guilt, shame and recrimination, because I am able to admit to myself and to others that I am a human being, fallible but able to improve, not a god.

We can support this view of ourselves in a few simple ways: positive supports instead of critics; affirmations; journaling on our achievements every day, even the little ones (Getting the laundry done on time is progress, isn’t it?); we can make lists of our good qualities and resolve to apply them to the way we live, and so forth.  You can probably think of several more.

Self-image is largely a point of view.  We have trained ourselves to have a pretty low opinion of us.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  We can admit that we’re unskillful at some things, and resolve to try and be more skillful in the future.

This, then, is the Middle Way
Not black, nor white, but shades of gray.

 

 

Came To Believe

by Bill

The Second Step reads “Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  It gets a lot of attention because of that “power greater than ourselves” part, but not so much about the “believe” part.

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Just what does it mean to believe?  We throw the term around a lot, and it means different things at different times.  Take “I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows,” for example.  Hundreds of billions of raindrops fall from one big thunderstorm.  If the statement were true we’d be inundated with flowers, even if they were tiny ones, and no one who’s given the idea much thought really  believes that. (Nice poetry, though.)

Then there’s the fact that I believe that the Earth is a globe, similar in shape to  the one in my office.  I don’t know that, but I’ve seen enough information leading to that conclusion that I believe it anyway. Many others do, as well.  They, and I, have faith in all that information.  We believe the people who tell us that the Earth is not flat.

Now, let’s say that I show you my fist and tell you there’s a jewel in my hand.

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Compassion and Forgiveness

There is a well-known Buddhist lesson concerning two monks who were traveling and came to a muddy stream.  There they observed a woman who was hesitating to cross, apparently concerned about soiling her clothing.

The older monk approached the woman, bowed, and then picked her up and carried her across the stream.  He set her down, bowed again, and he and his younger companion continued on their way.

That evening, while they were eating their rice, the younger monk said, “I don’t understand.  As monks, we are to have no contact with women, yet you picked that woman up and carried her!”

The older monk said, “I put the woman down at the side of the stream.  You are still carrying her.”

That’s how we are.  We cling to thoughts and ideas, worrying them and twisting them around inside our heads, causing all sorts of turmoil and accomplishing nothing in the way of our journey toward spirituality.

To me, spirituality is about things of the human spirit: understanding, compassion, forgiveness, love, willingness to contribute our efforts to help others, humility (at which I fear I’m not all that successful) and things of that sort.  Compassion and forgiveness are especially important, because clinging to the resentments that prevent those qualities from shining forth causes us so much unhappiness.

Compassion is, essentially, seeing things from another’s point of view, and being willing to do what we can to alleviate their suffering.  Forgiveness is compassion toward ourselves.  It is not about “freeing” the other person from anything, but about freeing ourselves of the unhappiness that is caused by being unforgiving.

Like the young monk, we sometimes carry things along with us after the reality has changed and, in our very human way, often blow it up in our minds until it forms a nearly impassable barrier to true spiritual growth.  Not until we realize that forgiveness does not involve condoning a wrongful act, but is simply choosing to accept, and move on with our own lives, can we expect to get beyond it.  That doesn’t mean that we have to invite the person to dinner, but only that we need to learn to put down our own burden after we have crossed the stream.

Change Your Mind Day 2008

We’d like to invite you to attend our virtual Change Your Mind Day 2008, on tricycle.com. Please enjoy our free offerings of guided meditations and dharma talks.

Change Your Mind Day 2008 | News | Tricycle

Even if you’re not interested in learning anything about Buddhism, this is an invaluable resource for learning about meditation.