I was ten and at a slumber party. My parents rarely ever let me spend the night at a friend’s house, so I was thrilled. We had pizza and a pillow fight. As it got late, one of my friends put a large paper boat on top of her head. It looked like a Vietnamese rice paddy farmer hat – a coolie.
She bowed and said,”Ah so!” Everyone laughed. They thought it was funny. I got angry. I was the only Asian girl there.
Now, decades later, I know that anger is a symptom of sadness and pain. I was hurt because what she did made me feel like an outsider, I felt different from them. But did she mean to do that? No. The pain I felt is what I caused because I assumed (at first) that she was being malicious, but she wasn’t. I projected my feelings and beliefs on her.
If you are suffering (worried, angry, sad, insecure, jealous, etc.), you are causing yourself pain. You are choosing it. I know it sounds over-simplified and not entirely true, but it is. Mental illness aside, if you’re wallowing in self-pity or proud to be a road rager, you’re choosing it.
I was eating in a Phoenix cafe at an open window. A very good-looking family of five walked past the window: mother, father, three small children. The father, dressed in expensive athletic wear (his shoes alone must have cost at least $300), stopped and pointed at a man across the street.
He gestured at a homeless man who was walking and muttering to himself. The wife nodded in agreement to whatever her husband said to her and they laughed as they went on their way.
The young father was judging a man who was clearly struggling by society’s standards. Why? Because the father’s ego was projecting a defense mechanism. Somewhere along the way, this man suffered an emotional injury. He hasn’t worked to defuse his pain (and accompanying anger) and is now spewing his garbage onto his family.
According to Mindful.com, the cure for the critic is to sit and examine your judgmental thoughts. Be aware of your thoughts. Take responsibility for them. Get to the heart of the matter. Defuse your pain and focus on gratitude. You’ll be happier and your loved ones will, too.
There is a lot of action being taken nowadays: marches, boycotts, and lawsuits. People are unhappy and want to take action. Action can be good. It sounds better than just sitting on your tush, complaining. Complaining is definitely not productive.
In your own life, you might be pondering an action to take: to breakup with a lover, to make a career change, or to move out of the country. You ask yourself, is it the right thing to do?
In Buddhism, there is a saying, “Make right action.” By “right,” it is meant ideal or wise. It is not meant to be taken as the opposite of the Western concept of “wrong.” It means your decision comes from a place of calm, peace and compassion. And by action, it is all action, not just major decisions.
When you make dinner, serve it lovingly. When you drive, do it compassionately. When you work, do it mindfully. This will add up to a good life for you.
A hint: your action does not have its roots in anger or sadness.
So. Think about your choices. Which action is right action?