In his book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh talks about cultivating the wholesome seeds within us, and not watering the unwholesome seeds. Within this discussion, he talks about the custom of bowing to someone and what it signifies.
The seed of Buddhahood, the capacity to wake up and understand things as they are, is also present in each of us. When we join our palms and bow to another person, we acknowledge the seed of Buddhahood in him or her. When we bow to a child this way, we help him or her grow up beautifully and with self-confidence.
Where I come from (West Coast), you’re lucky if you can get someone to even say hello to you. Where I live now (The South), I feel much more comfortable and safe in this culture of greeting people, looking them in the eye, calling them “Ma’am” and “Sir.”
But how different would it be to bow?
I always saw bowing as extremely submissive. But then, I always thought saying “Ma’am” and “Sir” was butt-kissing as well, until I began to live it. It’s respect, pure and simple. It’s either mutual, in which case no one is lower than the other, or it’s one-sided, in which case, the person saying “Ma’am” has the high ground, because they’ve done what they’re supposed to do.
So if I were to bow to someone as a show of respect, an acknowledgement of the seed of Buddhahood within them, it wouldn’t be that I was saying the person is better than me, but simply that they are capable of great wisdom and awareness.
I realize that someone bowing would be seen as somewhat of a weirdo, but it’s still a fun thought experiment, an interesting “what if?”
Are there any words that make your skin crawl?
A quite unfortunate one for me, both because it is so commonly used as well as the inexplicableness of my extreme distaste for it, is “kiddo.”
Now I’m going to have to pinch my own cheek black and blue just for writing it.
The only possible reason I can come up with is a smarmy but generally fair and tolerable manager I used to have who would call me that. I was 18 and 19 years old when I worked for him. One day I just couldn’t take it any more, and after he said, “Don’t forget to turn the ‘Closed’ sign, kiddo,” I responded, “No problem, Old Man.”
I had a smidgen of an attitude, I suppose. But even though I was only 19, I’d recently gotten married and was done being regarded as a child.
He turned to me and actually looked kind of hurt. In all fairness, he couldn’t have been older than 50. But he somehow understood the source of my displeasure and never called me that again.
He was actually a cool guy, so to have this be the source of my rage against this word doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Nevertheless, in this post is the last time you’ll ever hear/read me say that word unless I’m quoting someone else. Bleh.
Care to share any of the words that make you want to hurl… or rip someone’s head off? And do you know why you hate it so much?
Posted in Beyond Labels
When I was in the pre-teen/early teen years, I could always guarantee myself the most profound feeling of satisfaction by the end of the day, simply by completely a list of certain chores:
- Clean out dog’s pen, water and food dish.
- Clean out guinea pigs cages, water bottles, line their cages with fresh grass and give them a pile of pellets.
- Tidy, dust and vacuum my room.
- Launder my sheets then make my bed up nice.
- Take a shower.
- Organize my books by author or subject, or whatever my whim happened to be.
Mind you, these days were few and far between. But when I made it happen, I would lay in bed that night feeling completely and utterly fulfilled in my existence. I had set all right with the world.
I haven’t felt that in a long, long time.
Even on a day like today, when I’ve gotten so much done already (almost 4 p.m. now), it doesn’t matter. Before I fall asleep I’ll feel like the biggest failure, slacker, my to-do list still weighing me down.
So far today I’ve:
- Done a load of laundry.
- Run a load of dishes through the dishwasher (after having put away a load of clean ones).
- Watered front and back garden.
- Done some weeding, mulching and some trimming of bushes.
- Harvested some zucchini and cucumbers.
- Snaked out our shower drain (finally.)
- Hemmed my new work pants (finally.)
- Answered a work email.
- Taken the dog out several times, fed and watered him.
- Played games and puzzles with kids.
- Prepared and served breakfast, lunch and a snack.
- Wiped down counters and dining table.
- Made my bed.
- Changed Gwen about 5 times, two of which were poopy.
And probably some other stuff I’ve forgotten. Pretty typical day. I’m certainly not a failure or a slacker.
I just feel like one all the time.
I wonder if I can ever get back to where I can feel good about my day? When enough will once again feel like enough?
Some days I can so clearly remember being little, being at my Grandma’s house, the sound of the piano in the rumpus room, the rhythm of her low-heeled pumps walking across the kitchen floor, the feel of the cool green leather recliner I liked to sit in.
A feeling of dark anger wells up in me, that I had no idea how precious it was. That I was a spoiled brat wondering what toy she would buy me later, how soon we would leave for the movies, if she’d remembered to buy my favorite ice cream for dessert later.
And now I am painfully aware of how good my kids have it. Shelves full of books, rooms full of every kind of toy, the Netflix queue full of instantly available commercial-free entertainment. Not to mention video games, neighborhood friends, a field across the street and blackberry-filled woods next door, art supplies and a whole desk in the living room dedicated to creative pursuits. And two parents who engage, converse, interact, explain, listen, cook and clean, hug and kiss.
And a dark anger wells up in me to think of how much they whine and complain and wish and pine and argue.
I try desperately not to hate. But I hate the fact that humans are so blind to blessings. And now, when my eyes are finally opened to how wonderful my life is, it is all tarnished, continually, day after day, despite all my best efforts, by the attitude of the young family members who WILL NOT STOP begging and bitching.
All I can think is that surely I ruined it for my Grandma. I know how hard she tried to make my time at her house a living paradise. And I know damn well how much I begged and bitched.
And the wheel turns.
But the view at the top… worth the whole struggle.
When I was little I thought the opposite of love was hate.
When I got older I realized that the opposite of love is fear.
Now I think that there is no opposite to love. Life is unending struggle, and we can choose to love anyway.
Love as a way to embrace life.