Sunday, March 8, 2015

Examining Motivations: On Not Acting with a Twist

Sometimes translation is everything when it comes to my initial impression of a new-to-me slogan, and this week is a perfect example. The cards I've been using have this for the thirty-sixth tenet:
Don't act with a twist.
My confusion was immediate. At first I thought about twist ties, and then I thought about this twist:

After I had a little laugh at my imagination, I turned to and found an immediately intelligible translation: "Don't make practice a sham." Don't be a Buddhist for show, in other words. As usually happens when my understanding starts to dawn, I felt a little guilty and like I've been doing it wrong. That feeling intensified when I read the short explanatory passage:
"Your practice is a sham when you use it to gain higher status, greater abilities, or other benefits. Practice is about being present. It is not about your getting something for your efforts."
Then there was a whole different kind of twist: one in my stomach. My gut twisted a bit because I wrote a post about my Buddhism for my other blog this past week. My initial impulse to write that piece came from an acquaintance of mine questioning and insulting my practice as a Buddhist. But if I'm honest, I do like the attention Letters to a Young Librarian gets and there was a drop of trying to get "something for [my] efforts" in the mix as I wrote.

I let myself feel the guilt for a moment, but not too long. I took a deep breath and turned, as I usually do, to Judy Lief's piece on this slogan on the Tricycle site, and that helped me a bit. Well, to be honest, what Lief wrote made my stomach twist a bit more at first. This passage especially had me feeling self-recrimination:
"We keep track of our acts of kindness and our moments of awareness as demonstrations of how we ourselves are progressing. Instead of genuinely opening our heart, we go through the motions. Then we look around to make sure that our benevolence is properly noticed and admired. In reality, under the guise of helping, we are just using people. They are props for our self-development project."
But that's not what writing a post about Buddhism for my library/librarian blog was about. I'm not a Buddhist for anybody but me. I know in my heart that I'm not doing this to be noticed or admired. I don't want to take my perspective for granted, though, so I will still follow Lief's advice and examine my motives as I progress through the next week and beyond.

Until next time, namaste and all that.

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