Probably Not the Best Example of Loving Kindness

Via on Mar 22, 2010

When the City Is At Peace

I called somebody a stupid fucking asshole on the way to yoga class…there in the middle of the street, him in his car that had careened in front of me, yelling, shaking with indignation, motioning with his steering wheel and revving his engine as if about to run me over on purpose, though I’d had the right of way…men, women and children standing passively at the bus stop on the corner as I unleashed my foul invective, yoga mat slung over one shoulder.

Probably not the best example of loving kindness. Then, that well of rage, so easily tapped, might have something do with why I go to yoga class in the first place.

Joe Strummer sang:

Let fury have the hour
Anger can be power
Know that you can use it…

And that’s true, up to a point, even if the number of oppressive regimes overthrown by punk rock seems to be locked securely at zero. I’ve been known to rage against people with positive attitudes, though it’s generally only those who desperately want to have positive attitudes that are the problem; y’know, people who say keep your bullshit negative attitudes away from me without the least hint of irony. Smiling organic types who’ll blithely dismiss other people’s unhappiness as their own bad karma, all their own fault for putting out negative energy…as if anything could be more negative than substituting rejection and judgement for kindness and empathy. Then, who knows, maybe all those people in Darfur really just need  a copy of  The Secret.

An American Tibetan Buddhist nun named Pema Chodron (yeah, I’m dubious as anybody about Westerners who become Buddhist nuns and change their names, though, as far as I know, she didn’t drop nearly as much acid as Richard Alpert did before he became Ram Dass) (not that there’d be anything wrong with it if she had) wrote this about a Zen teacher named Bernard Glassman who works with the homeless: he feels that moving into the areas of society that he had rejected is the same as working with the parts of himself that he had rejected. Could it be that all self-righteousness, all outwardly-directed disdain, is, in essence, a refusal to accept what we see in the mirror?

 

*as this is my first piece for Elephant Journal, thought I’d introduce myself…as well as display my green cred…by recycling something that appeared previously, in somewhat different form, as one of my first Yoga for Cynics posts…though it may say something about my past two years of steady yoga practice that I’m not sure how well I relate, at this point, to its rather pissy tone…*

About Jay Winston

Jay S. Winston, founder and proprietor of Yoga for Cynics (http://yogaforcynics.blogspot.com), has a PhD in English, making him the kind of doctor who, in case of life-threatening emergency, can explain Faulkner while you die, is currently (semi-)(un-)employed as a freelance writer and editor, teaches creative writing to homeless men, tutors recovering addicts in reading, was recently certified as a Kripalu yoga teacher, gets around mostly by bicycle, is trying to find an agent for his novel, resides in the bucolic Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, State of Mildly Inebriated Samadhi, U.S.A. and, like most people who bike and practice yoga, used to live in Boulder.

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8 Responses to “Probably Not the Best Example of Loving Kindness”

  1. Hi, Jay. Welcome to Elephant! Brilliant beginning.

    You may not know this yet, but attracting a stinging reply from people like my friend (I hope he doesn't mind me calling him a friend) Bill Schwartz is a major badge of honor here at Elephant Journal. Bill and I started off battling about this and that a couple of weeks ago until eventually we started liking each other in spite of ourselves. ( See the fascinating discussion at http://bit.ly/bqlvc1 )

    I don't know if the same will happen between you and Bill, but you're off to an excellent start. It's the kind of thing that happens routinely here at Elephant Journal. When they fight back that means they like you.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  2. Hi, Jay. Welcome to Elephant! Brilliant beginning.

    You may not know this yet, but attracting a stinging reply from people like my friend (I hope he doesn't mind me calling him a friend) Bill Schwartz is a major badge of honor here at Elephant Journal. Bill and I started off battling about this and that a couple of weeks ago until eventually we started liking each other in spite of ourselves. ( See the fascinating discussion at http://bit.ly/bqlvc1 )

    I don't know if the same will happen between you and Bill, but you're off to an excellent start. It's the kind of thing that happens routinely here at Elephant Journal. When they fight back that means they like you.

    Bob Weisenberg
    http://YogaDemystified.com

  3. Greg says:

    Ah, yes, Richard Alpert. Ram Das. Ironically, when I met him he characterized the "loving kindness" attitude you write about at the top of your article.

    One afternoon I sat in the library at a commune above Taos as he put the finishing touches on Be Here Now. (Written on large sheets of brown butcher paper.) We shared the quiet. I had nothing to say to him. He had nothing to say to me.

    Then he made his way to the prayer room where a crowd had gathered to hear his words. I followed. Sat in the back. He proceeded to throw the cold water of "you are stupid fucking assholes" on the assembled audience as he told them, "You come to get high off me, but I do not get high off you."

    What a pompous jerk I murmured as I slipped out the back and made my way to the commune's amazing shower – a large pool-like basin with four spigots on opposite sides, glass walls that opened on Taos mountains, sunlight streaming in. Felt like I needed a shower after the decidedly unenlightened performance of Ram Das.

    I closed my eyes and let the water cascade over me. When I opened my eyes I discovered a beautiful young lady standing under the spigot across from me. She smiled warmly and for a moment life was as perfect as it can get for a young man wandering the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado..

    But she was not the important element of that scene. She simply carried a Dharma message. At that instant I realized a lesson I would carry with me to this day — when old curmudgeons try to pass off their skunky attitude as enlightenment, walk away. When they piss on your leg and try to tell you it is raining, walk away. When they try to pass off their bad attitude as the product of the Dharma, walk away.

    When you walk away from such self-imposed clouds of karmic obfuscation, you usually find some very bright patches of sun in samsara. You begin to realize the cloudy days are only the detritus of old, ego-inflated curmudgeons behind the Wizard of Oz curtain trying to sell their accumulated unconsciousness as enlightened reality. Don't buy it.

    • I agree with you, Greg. Abusive behavior is abusive behavior, no matter who it is, and walking away is the healthiest move.

      I have mixed feelings about Ram Das after reading his collection of lectures he gave on the Bhagavad Gita at Naropa Institute in 1974, a book called "Paths to God –Living the Bhagavad Gita" http://bit.ly/bF09oc . This book even begins with an account of Dass' debate with Chogyam Trungpa.

      Today these lectures are alternately infuriating and exhilarating. Infuriating because of his glorification of hallucinogenic drug culture, absolute guru worship, claims of paranormal powers, and more.

      Exhilarating because, once you get beyond that, he is a brilliant interpreter of the Gita.

      Bob Weisenberg
      http://YogaDemystified.com

    • I agree with you, Greg. Abusive behavior is abusive behavior, no matter who it is, and walking away is the healthiest move.

      I have mixed feelings about Ram Das after reading his collection of lectures he gave on the Bhagavad Gita at Naropa Institute in 1974, a book called "Paths to God –Living the Bhagavad Gita" http://bit.ly/bF09oc . This book even begins with an account of Dass' debate with Chogyam Trungpa.

      Today these lectures are alternately infuriating and exhilarating. Infuriating because of his glorification of hallucinogenic drug culture, absolute guru worship, claims of paranormal powers, and more.

      Exhilarating because, once you get beyond that, he is a brilliant interpreter of the Gita.

      Bob Weisenberg
      http://YogaDemystified.com

  4. Claudia Azula Altucher Claudia says:

    Could it be that all self-righteousness, all outwardly-directed disdain, is, in essence, a refusal to accept what we see in the mirror?

    I find the question you pose interesting, perhaps because it is something I ponder myself. As a policy, whenever I find myself thinking badly of another, or criticizing, my first step is to realize that it might just be my mind, and the second is to ask myself, "where does this apply to me"? If I am truly honest, 99% of the time it does. So yes, it might very well be, at least for me it seems to be.

  5. Love your launching here Jay, and am glad to see you haven't reeled in your snarkiness any!! and anger well focused and channeled is a mighty useful energy source, in my opinion! Thanks for introducing me to Elephant Journal – I'm looking forward to reading you here and there :)

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