For the last few months I’ve been dealing with a very angry old man who has been terrorising my 14 year old son, who occasionally rides past his house to ride his motorbike in a large flat paddock in our community. I won’t go into very much detail except to say that it’s been bringing out the vicious mama bear in me. As a Buddhist, I’m taught to practise loving-kindness and compassion toward all beings, but dealing with this man makes me want to kill!
My one small vindication (ok… let’s call it a rationalisation), is that my super patient, calm and reasonable husband has the same reaction to this person. We’ve tried to figure out how we’ve allowed this man to hijack our serenity and infect us with his misery. It feels as though he has some kind of super power, that when fuelled with alcohol, turns him into some kind of impenetrable demon. Trying to reason with him is like to trying to reason with a 2 year old mid-tantrum…. totally pointless.
What to do? We’ve tried ignoring him, but when he actively tries to seriously harm our son, we have to intervene. We’ve talked to the police who are unable to do anything until something happens, like our son ends up in hospital. We demand that our son always wear his Go-Pro so we have every interaction with this man on video, which I’ve uploaded into our police file so there’s a history of the abuse. We’ve even met with our community Board to attempt a compromise wherein we will minimise our son’s bike riding in that particular area. Never mind the thousands of dollars we spent buying him a quieter motorbike. So far, to no avail….
I’ve been desperately trying to find compassion toward this man who is clearly in the jaws of a serious alcohol problem and has a long and distinguished reputation of being a miserable prick! Let me be clear here… I’m doing this for myself. This isn’t about changing him, but changing my reaction to him. There will always be people or situations that cross my path that are unpleasant or downright infuriating. While I must take appropriate action to stand up for my rights and the rights of others to be free from tyranny and abuse, it’s also essential that I don’t add more anger and hatred to the mix. If I do…. everyone loses.
I recently began my tonglen meditation practice again in order to get back to my happy place and my body’s first reaction has been a wicked sore throat and cold. I’m hopeful this means it’s working.
My practice begins with this prayer:
“Having recognised the futility of my selfishness and the great benefit of loving others, may I bring all beings joy. May I send all my virtues and happiness to others through the strength of my practice, and may I receive the suffering, obstacles and defilements of all motherly beings in all realms.”
I start by visualising a person or group of people who are suffering. I imagine their suffering pouring out of them as hot, dark smoke, as I breathe it all in deeply. I accept the feelings of pain and discomfort as they come forward. This part is tricky as my first inclination is to move away from pain, almost reflexively. When I catch myself doing that, I bring myself back to the discomfort, repeating the mantra, “May I remove all your suffering by receiving it fully.”
I then look toward a group of my loved ones and generate all the feelings of love I feel for them. Children and pets are particularly easy in helping to generate this pure, unconditional love as we don’t tend to hold any resentment toward them. I imagine this feeling of love as a healing white light surrounding me and dissolving the dark smoke within.
Next, I go back to those who are suffering and visualise the pure white light of love and compassion surrounding and embracing them. I repeat the mantra:”May I send you all my virtues and happiness and bring you joy.”
This tonglen practice can be done in 5 minutes when I practise it everyday. But if I’ve gotten away from it, it usually takes me longer as my mind is very busy and rambunctious, like a wild elephant.
The results are amazing and instant. Unfortunately, anger and resentment are difficult habits to break, so it takes a lot of practise to gain control of them. It can be frustrating in the beginning as it feels as though you can’t hold any image for more than a second before you start thinking about how annoying some person is or what you need to get done that day, ad infinitum.
Be patient with yourself and push through the roadblocks. It’s worth it… I promise.