Sunday, November 9, 2014

Missing Petals: On Not Talking About Injured Limbs


The tenet I'm tackling today is kind of a continuation of last week's in that it's about how we make mental room for and how we accommodate other people in our lives. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me share the wording and all my research before I continue.
Don't talk about injured limbs.
If you're confused by this tenet, I'm not surprised. Is it any wonder that I need multiple commentaries to even approach the meaning of these slogans? The cultural differences between Chekawa Yeshe Dorje, the original author of these tenets, and me are oceanic to say the least.

In this case, was a huge help with their translation of this tenet: "Don't talk about others' shortcomings." Their explanatory passage didn't add much, but it did cement the meaning for me:
"Such talk doesn't help them and it doesn't help you."
Okay, so I get it. Gossip is bad. We shouldn't focus on the problems of others, as opposed to their strengths. That's all well and good, but the Unfettered Minds page felt like finger waggling instead of like help. What I mean to say is that this was enough to understand the cryptic original text, but I've no idea what to do with this tenet.

If you've read this blog before, I'm sure you know where I went next. Yup, that's right. I turned to the Tricycle Magazine column about this slogan by Judy Lief. I sighed a huge sigh of relief after I finished reading it. A few passages stood out to me as relevant to my experience with talking "about injured limbs."
"It may seem a kindergarten level of advice to be told not to poke fun of people. Of course, most of us don’t outright do that. But at a subtler level, we are both fascinated and repulsed by other people’s deformities and weak points. This leads us to dwell on those defects, and in turn, our focus on their defects turns the people themselves into kinds of defect-appendages. So although we may not be talking behind their backs or poking fun at them, we are still distancing ourselves from them. We are engaging in a technique of subtle rejection."
I thought about it for a while, but then I realized something. It's not that we have to love and accept and rejoice in every single person we meet. That would be exhausting and leave us drained. However, we shouldn't be distancing ourselves from injured or weak people just because of their injuries, because of their weaknesses.

I don't think I'll have a hard time applying this to my life because the very first thing I thought of when I finished reading was flowers. Flowers that are missing a couple of petals are still flowers and still beautiful. This goes for people, too. Heck, sometimes a flaw can be the thing that makes us beautiful. I can handle physical differences just fine. But if I'm going to be completely honest, I have to admit that people's behavior/mental injuries can prompt me to distance myself.

I'm already well aware of how we tend to be the judge and jury for other's behavioral flaws ("she's always so cranky lately!"), but the lawyers when it comes to our own mistakes ("Oh, I'm feeling cranky a lot lately, but my cat's been sick and keeping me up nights and I'm not getting enough sleep."). I also know from the last tenet that I need to give as much credence to the needs of others as we do to our own needs. All of this means I need to be mindful and intentional, but I'm feeling confident.

I'll be applying Lief's advice: "Think of a person you are embarrassed to be around, whose flaws are obvious. See if you can expand your attention, so that you can see past that person’s defects, and past your reactions and ideas about those defects, to the person themselves."

So that's what I'll be doing. Until next time, namaste and all that.

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