Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Ninth Precept

A part of the work towards taking Jukai in October I am supposed to make a mental notes to review the precepts each day. Not for any opportunity to judge myself, encouraging my Inner Critic to point out all the ways I fail the precepts. Rather just to keep them close, learn from them.

In looking at the ninth precept, "Not to give vent to anger, but to seek its source.", I've tried to beyond the obvious fierce rage. Instead I've tried to play close attention to all the little ways frustration comes to the surface. How at work my teammates and I even call it "venting" when you just need to have someone let you complain. Let off some of the pressure of a situation by talking about it. I've come to see how this is can be a method of seeking the source so long as the frustration being shared is done so with the intention of also examining why it is so present.

I had an unexpected way to look at frustration and anger arising in myself a couple of weeks ago while I was in the car and headed over to the house. We'd made a detour and had turned around to make sure we would come down MLK in order to stop by the bank. Those few minutes of detour meant that we were on the stuck side of a parade turning onto MLK from Killingsworth.

Not so bad, right?

Except it was a pro-life protest march.

In the car in front of us a dog barked in great agitation at all the people marching by "his" car. He jumped up and down against the window. We sat silently in the car and I felt my anger rising up to the surface. At some point it occurred to me that my mind, in it's agitated state, was just making noise like the dog.

"Just how much is this police escort costing my taxes?"

"How could they bring their children along?"

"How dare they impede my busy day with an opinion I vehemently disagree with!"

"Why did we have to make that detour, if we'd gone right the first time we'd have been past this!"

All of it just so much barking! I started to watch the anger I felt, where it traced back to. It was hard. It is far easier to just stay angry, to let frustration and indignation boil over. It is so warm and energizing, enticing to just cozy up around that energy. The choice to trace that energy down and see the fear and uncertainty laid bare takes a great deal more effort.

By the time the very last marcher had turned south onto Killingsworth I could be more honest, more compassionate. No, not that I agree with any of them at all, not even close. What I am glad is that the police would block traffic if I were to march to express my opinion, regardless of how popular my opinion is, or is not. That is part of the service to the community, to ensure the right to assemble and express opinions.

Some deep breaths and willingness to deeply look and I found a little calm in a present moment I didn't enjoy. Although I cannot come to any agreement or even true understanding of the pro-life marchers, I could agree with the idea of upholding the right to express opinions. At times what I can hold to is the common desire of all beings to be heard. I may passionately not want to hear opinions from every being, wanting to close myself off in the strength of my disagreement, but I can move beyond that in understanding of the desire to express and be listened to.

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