'Freedays' are the 'gather our thoughts' days; Q&As; a general page reviewing the week so far…
A question was asked. Not here and not via email. It was by using the Google Profile posts page. It was not even in direct reference to any post content but, rather, to one of the famous quotes used; "For every minute you are angry, you give up sixty seconds of peace of mind." (Ralph Waldo Emerson). This had stirred the heart of the reader very strongly. She wondered how it was one could deal with the twisting, visceral reaction which can arise when in a societal group which has nothing better to do than make mischief. Response within that particular forum needed to be succinct.
"Ah.... the chitty-chatty at the kitty-party? Hmmm... heavy application of shamaadhi-shatka-sampatti required there! In particular, titksha. Are these people worth your loss of serenity? Others think they can manipulate our feelings; whether or not they are successful in that is entirely up to us."
It was an excellent question and one which arises constantly as one seeks to grow, so a fuller exploration will now be undertaken.
What this question does is highlight exactly what has been brought forward in the workings-days articles on the 'vices' of character which hold us to ransom. Anger is a biggie. It appears in so many different forms. Do not look at others' anger; assess your own. For some of us it can take a long time to come to the surface and for others it is at the forefront of the personality.
A moderated, well-directed anger, serving us at a time appropriate and resulting in improvements of behaviour and righting wrongs is a rare and valuable commodity. Anger can be righteous. The emphasis in this sentence, though, is 'rare'!
In the majority cases, anger is at best disruptive and, at worst, so damaging to the psyche the enemies it imagines pale into insignificance. Anger is the toxic waste of our personality, the infamous enemy within. The scenario which was given in the question above was that of social gossip. We have all experienced this, heh na? Peer group pressure, bullying, jealous barbs, scandal-mongering… all of these themselves are expressions of anger. A mind at peace does not come up with jaunts and jibes!
What is more, a mind at peace does not get flustered when hearing jaunts and jibes. Therefore, if there is disturbance within us on hearing such things, we must assess why we are experiencing this sensation. Not "oh why are they doing that?' but "now why am I feeling this way?"
When a brick is thrown at a building, the damage it inflicts depends upon the structure of that building. A sturdy, well-made building which has been constructed of quality materials and put together in the best tradesman-like manner may possibly receive a chip or let a little dust fly from its surface, but there will be no noticeable damage at all and the building carries on being what it is. Upright and strong. If, however, the materials used are inferior, or the construction is below standard, there is risk of some damage. Nevertheless, the building remains standing. If the building is mainly of weak structure, with brittle fabric or has been patched up too often, it will certainly sustain more lasting effects from the thrown brick; it will carry scars. Then there are the buildings of glass. Bricks do much damage where there is such transparent fabric.
A brick is just a brick. That it was thrown is no fault of its own. Similarly, once launched, it has nothing else to do but follow the trajectory upon which it has been set. If it hits a solid wall, it is the brick which is more likely to break.
For building, read mind; for bricks read words. What is your 'construction'? It is not your body which is being affected but your personality. If you have worked on yourself with good values and maintained good mental discipline then you have a solid wall to filter the words and break them down, understanding how they are made. Good mental discipline, here, is not about being able to memorize endless facts or pull off difficult exams. It is about the saadhana chatushtaya, knowing what is worth responding to and what is not. It has esteem without ego. It will even hold compassion for the wielder of the 'brick'. It remains unflappable and eventually those who are attempting to break it down will begin to lose interest.
If the less skilled personality wavers though, if it shows signs of being chipped, the offender may seek to throw more bricks. Small chips can be worked at until they become a threat.
Unlike the buildings presented as analogy here, the personality has to be a 'self-builder'. It cannot look to others to strengthen it. Certainly it can ask for materials and skills. This might mean going to counselor or mediator, to priest or parent. These helpers may provide temporary shelter, but all will then give suggestions as to how you might shore yourself up so that such things do less damage in the future. Invariably these will include developing strong values and understanding context. (Of course there are those who seek to 'rescue' or go into attack on your behalf; but this has to be an exception rather than a rule as almost always it results in disempowerment. If we are among the rescuers ourselves, we need also to make personality adjustments, for there is little of genuine help in such action.)
Context? The strong and sturdy building barely notices the brick and even if it does, it sees it only as the dust into which it breaks. A sound and balanced personality very rarely takes umbrage. Most of the time, words in any particular group are simply being bandied about as egos seek to become the dominant or to defend themselves against imagined foes. A well rounded personality knows this and does not go looking for implied insults.
The weaker, or glass-like personality however, may find insult and injury even in the most innocent of words which has perhaps been taken out of context. The brick which hit the glass building may not actually have been intentionally thrown at all; it may simply have been kicked up by passing traffic which has no awareness of glass close by.
In short, it is up to us to build our inner worth and to appreciate that in the vast number of cases, we are not under attack.
Of course, if we choose to position ourselves near busy roads, the risk of flying 'sticks and stones' grows higher. Again, if soundly constructed, even such environs will not bother us greatly. Peer-groups, clubs, social gatherings are the busy roads for the personality. If we find ourselves smarting, seething, simpering, we have some repair work to do on the fabric of our personality.
All this assumes, though, that the hurt or ire being felt is not brought about by other aspects of our personality such as guilt. If something is felt deeply in our ego selves (and remember it is the ego only which is hurting!) we must check in as to why we let this shake us. It is not uncommon, if we are honest with ourselves, to find that there is some element of truth in whatever is said that we are now reacting to. If we find that, yes, we were guilty of this or that as overheard by such and such…. Then we must address improvements in that area also.
In the end it is choice. [words out] ~ [words in] » impression; where words out may or may not be received as intended at words in, and the impression left is dependent on the receiver, not the sender.
Additionally, we need to be certain that the reaction we are having is not because we ourselves have been seeking to take control/bully/exercise one-up-manship. Think carefully; "Have I been found out at my own game?" Is it that we have felt we had influence and now that has been taken away?
The social game is complex and requires maturity of spirit to survive it. At no time forget that you alone can take responsibility for your response. None of this, of course, absolves the 'words out' part of the equation from taking a degree of care; where deliberate attempts to inflict hurt through words is made we again need to reassess ourselves. Are we doing this out of anger, hatred, jealousy, arrogance? We are not talking here of the small irritations which can arise then, like matches, as quickly burn out; which may have come because of tiredness, frustration, or momentary impatience. This is about the persistent behaviour traits which are not serving us well.
You see the mire? The tools offered through study of advaita vedanta are tried and proven over centuries. All tools need use. They are of no use left in the box.
Blessings for the week, thank you to all readers and to those who have left comments. Questions are welcome!