Sunday, November 2, 2014

Please Just Be Normal Sauce: On Changing and Remaining Natural

I have to admit that the first thing that came to mind when I read this slogan was my hair:
Change your attitude, but remain natural.
I thought about how I cover the gray but stay within natural color ranges. Strange but honest and immediate associations are part of my process when it comes to studying each lojong, so I wanted to share - especially since I know there is a small but definite group of people who always read this blog who also know how fussy I am about my hair.

After I had a good laugh about my vanity, I brought myself back to thoughts of my inner life. I thought about how I do sometimes make a big deal to friends and acquaintances about my study of Buddhism. Sometimes it's to share the joy, and peace, and tools I've acquired, but sometimes it's a bit show-off-y. I hung my head in shame for a second when this clicked.

Moving on, though, I turned to the translation: "Change your intention but behave naturally." And the brief explanation offered:
"Don't make a public display of your efforts in mind training. Behave naturally with others."
Oof. Even though I know I'm not supposed to judge my progress even as I keep reaching to improve, the brief commentary from that website supported my original reaction - self-recrimination.

So it was with a mix of trepidation and hope that I moved onto the Judy Lief piece on Tricycle's website. I should know better than to worry about what Lief will have to say, since she has such a wonderful way of making these Eastern philosophies jibe with my Western way of thinking. One bit in particular stood out as helpful:
"This slogan targets one attitude in particular: the attitude that you yourself are more important than others. The attitude that you come first and others come second. It is rather embarrassing, but crude as it may sound, most of us carry this attitude or assumption with us all the time. It is definitely our default position, and deeply ingrained."
So it's not about Buddhism in general; it's about how I relate to the world. And some how, in the middle of thinking and writing about it, my mind clicked over to a particular scene from 30 Rock. The episode is one in which Liz Lemon, the main protagonist of the series, is trying to get approved for adoption. The case worker is coming to Liz's office and Liz asks the people who work for her to "Please, just be normalsauce for one day." She is asking them to keep her needs in mind as they move through their day. And that is what this slogan is asking: for me to keep other's needs in mind even as I go through my day. Not to place their needs above mine, but to avoid placing mine above theirs. It is telling me to weigh the needs and roles equally and to not see myself as the center of the universe. 

Being an educator and being a boss has taught me that I'm just one voice and one need among many, but I need to be more intentional. Lief's advice for putting this into practice is exactly what I'm going to do: "When you notice your attitude turning inward, fixating on yourself, give it a gentle nudge and turn it outward to include other beings. Don’t punish yourself for your selfishness or give yourself a gold star for your altruism. Simply apply the slogan and move on."

Until next time, namaste and all that.

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