Posted by: Upāsaka | 12/04/2012

Negativity

storm_mini1When I awoke today the tone of the day didn’t feel particularly strange but as I left my house and stepped onto to the platform of the L-train I could tell that something was amiss–there was a certain agitation in my mind and heart and I felt at once drained of energy and aversive to the crowd of ever-changing faces that swum around me.  Silently repeating the mantra metta-karuna-muditaupekkha I made it to my office where the feelings of irritation and fatigue lessened.

It seems as though this episode was foreshadowing for what happened later with the arrival of my business partner. Never one with a sunny disposition he can, at times, be a veritable tempest of verbal violence raining contempt and disgust upon everyone around him. Today was one of those days and despite the fact that the negativity wasn’t aimed solely or even primarily at me it wiped me out completely and sent me reeling for the rest of the day.

Fast forward to the N-train as I commute to pick up my son I am awoken (yeah, I was catnapping) by a woman having a heated conversation with herself about the incompetent people who caused her to lose her job. In common parlance she would be called crazy but that’s never a satisfying label and does nothing to confront or assuage the suffering. Strangely this lady followed me through two trains and a transfer almost as a reminder of the aggression, suffering and animosity that I had been subjected to all day at the office.

Now, I ‘m not sure what to do with this or even how to nicely tie this all up but the striking thing about it was that I was bewildered and dumb-struck by the shear intensity of other peoples’ ill-will. How does one deal with this and effectively cope? I’m tempted to give the stoock answer here and say to cultivate equanimity but how to do so? More practice I suppose. Sabbe satta sabba dukkha pamuccantu.

 

 

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Responses

  1. It’s difficult for sure. Sounds like a tough day. We all have our bad days, but carry on and try to enjoy the little things you can. That’s a place I like to start.

  2. I suppose we’d all be arahants if we didn’t have days such as this once in a while… and my experience tells me that there tends to be more of this as Christmas (or Commercemas?) draws nearer.

    Be well, and keep practicing. If it wasn’t hard, would it really be worth doing?

  3. Since suffering always comes from desire, I find it helpful to identify the desire that’s causing me to suffer. When the suffering is related to other people in my life, the problem is usually that they are not behaving the way I’d like them to behave. They are not acting or speaking or supporting my “self” in the way that I think they should. When I reflect on it this way, it seems very silly and arrogant of me to expect people to act/speak/feel/practice the way I think they should. It reminds me that the range of my influence is very small, and I can really only control my own actions. I have to let my attachment to other people’s behavior go. That is their kamma, not mine. How I react to them, though, is my kamma. If I react with aversion, even if only mentally, I’m creating unskillful kamma.

    So, when faced with a negative person, I try to be mindful of my reactions (especially mental ones, as these are the root of speech and action), and, once I’ve realized (again) that I cannot control other people’s behavior, I can drop my attachment to having them behave a certain way, thus dropping the desire and hence the suffering. I still feel compassion for them, because I know what their mind feels like, as I’ve felt that way before. I can still treat them with metta and do what I can to help, but must realize the extent of my influence and let go of attachment to any results.

    Anyway, when I’m mindful, this procedure works very well for me. When mindfulness lapses, I may revert to old habits of aversion. But it’s getting easier with practice!

    • “Ah, so happily we live,
      Without hate among those who hate.
      Among people with hate
      We live without hate.

      Ah, so happily we live,
      Without misery among those in misery.
      Among people in misery
      We live without misery.”

      Dhammapada 197-198


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