This is the story that I was trying to relate to my daughter’s father about not taking things personally when you had to be an authority figure at home, but he wasn’t in the right frame of mind*.
When something goes wrong at home, when a child is naughty etc, you can act in one of two ways:
You can be the kind of police officer who when they spot a driver who has just committed a crime, can either pull them over, yell at them to get out of the car, slam them against the bonnet and rage in what seems to be a justified rant;
or, you can pull the person over, ask for their details, give them a fine and then get on with your night.
When it’s your job to be the police officer you can’t afford to take it personally. Expending all that energy and having to deal with the aftermath of the stress hormones and the upsetedness of the little child with whom your angry is just not sustainable.
You choose the type of enforcement that goes on in your family life. I do my best to be police officer that does her job and moves on. I try not to take it personally even when my child slaps me across the face and laughs and laughs. Whether I succeed or not, this is always my intention.
*Our daughter was getting manic and wanted a bath and someone had to chase after her.
Picture it, Colchester 2004.
My then-boyfriend Graeme and I were visiting a pet store with friends who wanted to buy an aquarium, possibly even a clown fish after just having seen Finding Nemo.
There were tanks of tropical fish. That is to say, there were little creatures of dark crimson and royal blue who flickered and swam and propelled themselves with voluntary movements of their muscles and fins. They filtered water through their gills as they swam, extracting oxygen from the water. Miracles of creation no bigger than a 50p coin, a colourful reflection of the miracle of nature.
As I watched them slightly mesmerised, a voice piped up with “I wonder how that tastes?” about a particular dark blue fish. I was horrified. “Whoa there!” horrible carniverous voice. Here I am reflecting on the miracle of creation and you pipe up with your petty, low-life stomach urges? How could I pretend to admire and love the other beings on earth when my basest desire was to gobble them up with sliced and fried fish and a bit of lemon?
That wasn’t the moment I decided to be vegetarian but it was one of the many moments scattered around my life that made me decide to stop eating other animals.
My following and practise of Buddhism has also convinced me to have my actions in harmony with my thoughts and feelings. So here it goes.
2014 is my year of not eating other creatures. Reviews and explorations of food on this blog will not contain meat products.
So far it has been a bit of a challenge and instead of it being a problem, it reminded me that I like puzzles and thinking about things and analysing.
There will be more to follow but I wanted to publish this while I had the chance.
Jack Kornfield’s writing has been a huge support for me over the years. He discusses Buddhism through western filters. I have read the Wise Heart and A Path With Heart. I am reading Bringing home the Dharma and plan to read as many more as I can. I will leave with you a quotation that I also intend for my daughter because loving someone is good and great but that can mean a lot of things to different people.
Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control. We can love and care for others but we cannot possess our children, lovers, family, or friends. We can assist them, pray for them, and wish them well, yet in the end their happiness and suffering depend on their thoughts and actions, not on our wishes.
– Jack Kornfield
I don’t write too often (ever?) about the PhD I started and didn’t finish. It was an awful time. It was the most ego- and spirit-crushing time of my life for which in a way I’m very grateful because it made and makes all other bad times feel like a temporary breeze. Almost a zephyr really.
The PhD years also brought me to Buddhist teachings and zen practice. I also listened to, on my morning commute, this rather helpful story about the Buddha, Geoff and Me. The “me” is Ed, not me Joanna, whose life isn’t going the way he would like. He meets Geoff and in a very humble and interesting way learns all about Buddhism. Or a bit about Buddhism.
This isn’t like that rubbish book Sophie’s World where we get a rip-off of all the major philosophies in what is meant to pass as a novel. This is actually good.
From the website:
Ed is having a hard time – at work, in his love life and, well, generally. Then he meets an unlikely Buddhist – who drinks and smokes and talks his kind of language. Bit by bit, things begin to change… Ed doesn’t always take Geoff’s advice. Or, when he does he lapses at the crucial moment. His path to understanding is not a straight one, especially as life keeps throwing more and more ‘stuff’ at him. Often he fails – like most of us, in fact. But sometimes he manages to get it right. And when he does, surprising things begin to happen.
An absorbing story of everyday city life, where the characters stand out with all their human strengths and weaknesses, and the ending brings Ed – and perhaps all of us? – a hope we didn’t necessarily expect.
The Buddha, Geoff and Me – for anyone who’s ever begun to wonder what the whole damn thing is all about…
There was once a monk who spent twenty-five years up in a mountain cave meditating. A yogi came to visit this monk and asked him, “What are you practicing?”
The monk replied, “I am practicing the perfection of patience.”
The yogi replied, “Wonderful!” and proceeded to throw things around the cave, eat the monk’s food, and make a general nuisance of himself.
The monk was getting upset, and the yogi cranked up the volume by tearing up the monk’s books and messing up his shrine. Finally, the monk got up and started screaming at the yogi, and the yogi said, “Ah, and now where is your perfection of patience?”
41 weeks, one day
Zen by Cửu Lý Hương