Laundry Lists and The Dharma VI
A Bell Tower and the Dharma
This short blog is being written from the Alumni Guest House at my alma mater, The Hill School, in Pottstown, PA. I am helping organize our 50th reunion, which will take place in June. Pottstown, for the record, is the historic home of Mrs. Smith’s Pies and Kiwi Shoe Polish. The tower pictured above is the famous Bok Tower, and it is not in Pottstown.
The Bok Tower series of images you will see here really have nothing to do with Trait Eleven of the ACA Laundry List, nor anything to do with the Second Characteristic of Existence of Buddhism. The truth is that I have never posted this series of photos, and I like them a lot. Perhaps the bright blue skies, the colorful Georgia marble and the majestic design of this Bell Tower will enliven your understanding of how things are, and how you are in the midst of it all.
Laundry List Trait Eleven:
We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
This is another one of the traits with which I identified right away when I began my work in ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families). I am my own worst enemy in terms of judgment. One of the disturbing aspects of this “Adult Child” judging is that it serves as a pacifier of sorts. We judge ourselves because it is a familiar recital of what we felt in various moments (or in many moments) of our youth. However it was that we absorbed the disapproval it became a modus vivendi. Too often I find myself uttering some form of self-denigration to defuse a tense situation. Whatever is going on here is exacerbated by my failure.
And, having established this impossibly high standard I tend to judge others, particularly those I am closest to, with hurtful and all-projected harshness.
Thanks to other Adult Children who are willing to tell their stories in my weekly meetings I can now see this trait more clearly in my life and have begun to pop the bubbles of stored anger, grief, confusion, sadness, guilt and shame. I am learning to be more kind to myself.
The Second Characteristic/Mark of Existence - Dukkha
The word Dukkha is usually translated “suffering”. What I described above in terms of Laundry List Trait Eleven is clearly an example of that. To judge and feel judged is nothing less than suffering and emotional death. To love and to be loved is Grace and Life.
One other aspect of this word lends itself to the translation of “unsatisfactoriness”. The First Mark of Existence you remember is that all things are impermanent. It is precisely because things to not last that we find them unsatisfactory. We want things that feel good to remain, and things that don’t to go away. Life just isn’t like that, and so we have this internal and eternal complaint, “This isn’t what it is supposed to be!”
We shake our fists and protest. We go underground. We deny that we have an issue with whatever it might be. Or, we focus all our attention on blaming ourselves (see Trait 11) or others for the unfairness of this suffering. Yet it is. And we do.
In Buddhism the word Dharma or Dhamma means simply the truth of how things are. There is no value judgment of Dharma. It is just…what is. Dharma can also refer to the teachings of Buddha. His goal was to teach how things are.
I heard a Dharma talk recently in which it was noted that the spiritual life is about Remembering and Forgetting. One can take this on so many levels. You forget to pay attention to how things are, get lost in some made up story or projection, and then all of a sudden you remember to be mindful. I am trying to apply this to Trait Eleven. When I hear the inner voice of judgment I remember to bring love and compassion to myself. While I am forgetful there is suffering. When I remember the suffering fades.
The challenge is to learn “to meet every new moment skillfully.” That is my goal at least.