Poison as Medicine. {Pema Chödrön Book Club}

Via on Aug 22, 2012

 

Source: google.com via Recspec on Pinterest

“In the Buddhist teachings, the messy stuff is called klesha, which means poison.

Boiling it all down to the simplest possible formula, there are three main poisons: passion, aggression, and ignorance. We could talk about these in different ways—for example, craving, aversion and couldn’t care less. Addictions of all kind come under the category of craving, which is wanting, wanting, wanting—feeling that we have to have some kind of resolution. Aversion encompasses violence, rage, hatred, and negativity of all kind, as well as garden-variety irritation. And ignorance? Nowadays it’s called denial.”

(Start Where You Are, “Poison as Medicine.”)

It’s a little silly, but whenever I think of klesha, I think of this:

Klesha, pushing down on me, pushing down on you, no man ask for…”

Okay, silly. But accurate, too. We crave things and push things away. We long for and complain about. We itch, we lust, loathe and become indifferent and bury our heads in the sand. That is klesha. So what do we do? What’s the answer? How can this possibly be “medicine”?

They are the medicine because they give us the juiciest, richest opportunities to connect with our vulnerability:

“Acting out and repressing are the main ways that we shield our hearts, the main ways that we never really connect with our vulnerability, our compassion, our sense of the open, fresh dimension of our being. By acting out or repressing we invite suffering, bewilderment, or confusion to intensify.”

For most of my life, I thought that acting out and repressing were the only available options. Either you do “the right thing” and repress any negative feelings or you do the “wrong thing” and act on them. What if there was another option? What if it was completely unhelpful and counterproductive to label any of these feelings as good or bad? What if all that these things stir up actually serves as a wonderful opportunity to deepen, to soften and develop patience and kindness?

“Feel the wounded heart that’s underneath the addiction, self-loathing or anger. If someone comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart and to relate to that wound…They give us the chance to work on patience and kindness, the chance not to give up on ourselves, and not to act out or repress. They give us the chance to change our habits completely. This is what helps both ourselves and others.”

What if when someone hurts us, instead of reacting or repressing, we look honestly at the hurt and address it? I love how Thich Nhat Hanh talks about this same idea in relationship to dealing with anger:

“If your house is on fire, the most urgent thing to do is to go back and try to put out the fire, not to run after the person you believe to be the arsonist. If you run after the person you suspect has burned your house, your house will burn down while you are chasing him or her. That is not wise. You must go back and put the fire out. So when you are angry, if you continue to interact with or argue with the other person, if you try to punish her, you are acting exactly like someone who runs after the arsonist while everything goes up in flames.”

We don’t need to pretend there is no fire and let our houses burn down. We don’t need to chase down the arsonist. We need to deal with the reality of the fire. What if when craving for some person, thing or situation comes up, we dug deeper and were honest about the sadness and rawness beneath that craving? That’s where compassion starts. When we can honestly look at the tender parts of ourselves, the three “poisons” can become the three seeds of virtue.

When we can be still and not act out or run away, we start to awaken. We are able to really understand what maitri is and how to treat ourselves gently. When we start to awaken to these things in ourselves, then we can start to have true compassion and loving-kindness for others.

So all that klesha? Keep it coming. It’s going to keep coming anyway. Why not start looking it in the eye?

If you’ve been reading along and haven’t commented yet, this is a good place to start. We all have messes. We all want. We all get irritated. We all want to ignore those feelings. How do you deal with it? How would you like to deal with it?

Like elephant spirituality on Facebook.

 

Week One

Week Two

Week Three

Week Four

About Kate Bartolotta

Kate Bartolotta is the strongest girl in the world. She is the love child of a pirate and a roller derby queen. She hails from the second star to the right. Her love of words is boundless, but she knows that many of life’s best moments are completely untranslatable. When she is not writing, you may find her practicing yoga, devouring a book, playing with her children, planting dandelions, or dancing barefoot with her heart on her sleeve. She is madly in love with life and does not know how this story ends; she’s making it up as she goes. Kate is the owner and editor-in-chief of Be You Media Group. She also writes for The Huffington Post, elephant journal, The Good Men Project, The Green Divas, Yoganonymous, The Body Project, Project Eve, Thought Catalog and Soulseeds. She facilitates writing workshops and retreats throughout North America. Heart Medicine, Kate's book on writing, is now available on Amazon.com You can follow Kate on Facebook and Twitter

1,243 views

Appreciate this article? Support indie media!

(We use super-secure PayPal - but don't worry - you don't need an account with PayPal.)

5 Responses to “Poison as Medicine. {Pema Chödrön Book Club}”

  1. Its interesting to read about the kleshas (passion, aggression, and ignorance) here in the Buddhist context, because one of my favorite things in Yoga Philosophy is the kleshas (ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion, and clinging to life). There is always a lot of talk about the yamas & niyamas, but I feel the kleshas never really get enough attention. In both belief systems, it really boils down to jumping right into the fire, as you quoted by Thich Nhat Hanh, and getting into that juicy stuff.

    A couple of years ago, our 14 year Lab died. For a month I was extremely depressed, something I had never experienced. But I was really very grateful to experience that pain and suffering and feel the peace at the other end. It was a tremendous time of learning in my life.

    I am also finding in my marriage, that when I get irritated with my spouse, if I stay in my fire instead of lashing out at him, what is really bothering me is me, not him. (But sometimes it really is him.)

    • hahah! Laughed out loud at your last thought there. Sometimes it really is other people. And part of the path is learning to be grateful for that too.

      Kleshas are not talked about enough! We don't really like to be middle way about stuff, sometimes. We want excitement—good or bad.

      So sorry about your dog :( Our furry family members mean more than we realize sometimes.

  2. [...] first one isn’t engaging in comment wars on the internet. It probably has more to do with letting go of anger. Or being grateful. Or being compassionate to yourself and others. Or realizing that all of this [...]

Leave a Reply