difficulties on the path (2 of 4)

continuing from the previous, the next four of the twenty difficulties and my own admissions and thoughts… lessons for learning… i hope.

6. It is hard to keep the mind pure against the instincts of the body.

initially, i thought this and the next item were too close in relation to one another to really be separate. but on further consideration, i think i see why they are so. this one deals with emotions and reactions, whereas the next deals more with desire and lust.

being reactive to the world around me was never seen as a bad thing until i started looking at the concepts of attachment, aversion, and how they create suffering. this is hard, yes, because there is so much of this world that engenders reactions that are pleasant.

sure, i want to avoid the bad stuff. and i want all the good stuff. doesn’t everyone? but that’s the problem. wanting the good and not having it makes me suffer. not wanting the bad and getting it also makes me suffer.

distinguishing ‘good’ and ‘bad’, itself, makes me suffer.

but stars above, how the hell do you stop?

so many examples occur that i feel silly trying to pick one to make the point. do i really need to try? it is obvious to me. i’m sure to you as well. or so it seems. heck, i’m so confused and lost lately, i should go on and try… the very idea of knowing is bleeding badly here… which perhaps, is as it should be. challenge every thought, peel away the illusion.

woof. hard? yes.

ok. an example. something simple.
i like coffee.

i like the ritual process of brewing and pressing it.

i like the smell of it. i like the flavors and thickness of it. i like the way it warms me all the way down. i like the way it calms me. i like the way it is always the same, so long as i pay attention to its making.

i’m drinking some now. hah.

the sense pleasure of it is found ‘good’ here.

when i’m out of coffee, i am sad. not world-endingly depressed, but i miss it. i want it. every morning that i wake up and do not have it, is a little moment of suffering.

this is something i have been doing to myself. this suffering.

why? because i deserve to have coffee every morning? bleh. no. of course not.

but that IS what i think. and i judge mornings with it as ‘good’ and mornings without it as ‘bad’ and all the thoughts and feelings that come with those judgements i carry… like pebbles in the sack of life.

a pebble here and there doesn’t seem like much to be concerned about, or to spend time thinking on, does it?

but how many pebbles does it take to make that sack heavy?

how many pebbles does it take to bend my back?

how many to break it?

that’s the problem. i fool myself by saying it doesn’t matter. that it isn’t a big deal.

oh… but it is.

my entire life is a sack of pebbles, bending my back, slowly breaking it.

another example for me to look at… emotional interaction with others.

there are people i enjoy being around because they give me good feelings.

there are people i detest being around because they give me bad feelings.

but in truth, they aren’t giving me anything. i’m carefully making yet more pebbles… adding them to my sack.

yes. clearly, it is hard to keep the mind pure against the instincts of the body.

7. It is hard not to desire things that are beautiful and attractive.

this is obviously related to the above, but i think it stands separate because the nature of this kind of desire is usually stronger and more devastating.

it is usually not such a big deal to say ‘oh, i’m out of coffee, i’ll drink water instead.’ even as all the judgements remain. and the suffering. but the movement from one attachment to another is pretty fluid (sorry, that’s a horrible pun, isn’t it?).

but the kind of desire i find for things that are beautiful and attractive… oh, how i cling to them.

how many things ignored completely for looking after some beautiful thing? some heady, giddy, marvelous something that i… simply… must… have.

how many nights and days of pure suffering have i endured for not having?

how many laps around the bush have i made chasing my own ego and pride?

so easy to justify. oh, just another pebble. well, ok. this one is more like a brick. but it’s so pretty. look, see how it shines? and i just know i can carry it without any trouble whatever. it’s worth it! oh, to be able to say i have this lovely brick in my sack! happy me!

or, conversely, despair. oh, the world has no value, no thing may ever delight, no slumber ever refresh, no thing grant respite… if only i had that one brick… oh, that one… no other… no other can compare… never may i again smile for the missing weight of it in my sack!

stars. what a fool i am. don’t you agree?

i’m not clear of these things. how could i possible pretend to say otherwise, with this bulging sack as evidence, with my strained and crooked back clearly visible?

but i can say i see them. the kindness i give to myself here simply to softly and gently comfort myself with being able to see them at all. it is a start. a start is a good thing.

8. It is hard for a strong man not to use his strength to satisfy his desires.

when i first read this one, i thought of intimidation and bullying. but there are many kinds of strength. and any one of them could fit this statement.

me? stubbornness and tenacity and sheer will power. they are my great strengths, and therefore also, my greatest weaknesses.

and yes, it is hard not to use them to satisfy my desires. this, easily admitted, and quickly, too… i don’t dare pretend to hide from this one, when it is clear and arrogant and proud, that of me which is most often lauded by others even as they kindly refuse to point to how they often steamroll others.

not as if anyone else needs to point to them. in every moment i am both proud and undone for the abject stupidity of how i abuse others with these strengths to sate myself.

moreso of late, for reasons that i won’t go into, but if you read here, they are obvious, are they not?

i struggle with this. every damn day. almost every moment of every day. it’s a thick braid of fault here… this and the others, so naturally cohorts in the demonstration of my many unskillful acts.

i wrestle with how to break them down. i’m not sure i know how. understand, these are the things that have brought me through sorrows and hells i will not speak of here. as such, they have long been treasured, me by myself.

but i cannot even take credit for them. i certainly didn’t make them. i have no idea how i am so strong. i have no clue whatever how i manage to take even a single step in many moments. i have no idea where all this insane will power comes from.

sometimes, i try to figure it out. but i admit, i can’t. it is a real imponderable here. at best, i call them gifts of heredity. at worst, curses of karma. me brought on myself, i’m sure.

others forever tell me they do not know how i can be so strong. i always grimace and whisper inside, ‘join the club.’

others always wistfully commend my tenacity. this also brings a wry grimace. they don’t know it’s ugliness like i do. well. usually.

others always compliment my will power. hah. as if i could choose not to have it? if such a thing is possible, i know not how to manage it.

but boy, i sure can set them to beseige others. and often have. my own special blend of insanity… the ability to simply descimate circumstance through sheer insistence, tenacity, and will.

not that it always succeeds, mind you. and when it fails, forever does it do so explosively. i’m talking thermonuclearly.

the problem, of course, is that such things should never be set upon others. especially not in pursuit of such transient things as are desires.

is there a kindness to give to myself in this? if there is, i don’t see it in this moment. just a strong and repulsive sense of disgust for the moments past. careful of them, though… perhaps some small wisdom. can’t change the past. can’t make the future. can i hope to transmute these three in the now?

maybe. inflection of doubt, but also wistful aspiration. beginning to see. yes. there. the only kindness i can find.

((a short break from the topic here, just for a moment. just to point out to myself that this isn’t as difficult as i thought it might be. a small kindness of affirmation before these last two… keeping this place generally anonymous is helpful to all this horrid self-honesty and examination.

those who read here and know me, i cannot begin to know what you will think of all this. forgive me if i refuse to let it matter in this moment. a thing i must do or i’m truly going to lose what sanity ever lived here. i cannot continue living as i have, and i cannot continue to suffer for such idiocies and ignorances as i document here.))

9. It is hard not to get angry when one is insulted.

i chuckle here. me at myself. my first reaction was ‘if it is someone whose opinion doesn’t matter, it doesn’t insult me, so i do not get angry.’

boy, that’s me being a fool, isn’t it?

insult given by another is predicated upon the insult hurting. hence those whose opinions do not matter are not included in this but by indirect reminder that others should always matter. yet another fault… the process of segregating self from others and minimizing or denigrating their opinions as worthless.

sigh. hard going in places.

so ok. easy to admit, insults bring anger. both for the intent present in them as well as the hurt to ego and self that results. also for the reality that, in most cases, insults are thought to be use of information given in trust to wound. an assumption of intent that is not always present. and a willingness by ego and pride to track such things and make of them mountains when, in fact, they are, at best, molehills.

or nothing. nothing at all.

back to the whole discrimination thing. the ‘need’ to judge things as good or bad. more pebbles, stones, bricks… i sit here and ponder the nature of it all and wonder… why is this attractive? the hold of self and ego… crazy glue.

so what is the acetone that dissolves this sticky, stupid stuff? ah. no. that’s not the point of this. let me not distract myself. i laugh, and put my ‘hands’ firmly on my ‘head’ and turn my ‘eyes’ back to this… no avoiding. not this time.

anger is easy here. too easy. i begin to see what causes it. that doesn’t at all mean i have a clue how to change it. there are moments when i manage such change. but damn rare.

in most cases lately, it is simply to drop it utterly and withdraw. i am not sure if that is wise or not. it doesn’t seem anything is really solved with avoiding it. on the other hand, to avoid it is to not nourish it in others. and to stop watering the fucking weeds here, in myself.

not knowing any better way, i put a small ribbon over what seems otherwise an very ugly, lumpy reality and try to call it a kindness to myself… to others.

i would very much like to learn the way to transmute anger. interestingly, this process is helping somewhat. i am not sure why. i suspect… but i do not know. in the dust, it is hard to be proud. that’s as close as i can get right now.

10. It is hard to remain innocent when tempted by sudden circumstances.

i read this one and you know what i thought of? i thought of something i did well over 30 years ago for which i still feel shame and disgust with myself.

i was young, stupider even than i am now (wry grin) and in very dire straits. i had gone out to dinner with an older man. steak and ale. we got there late. the place was about to close. we were the last customers. our meal finished, we paid and i went to the restroom before we were to leave.

when i entered the stall, upon the top of the toilet was a white, paper bag. curious, i looked. inside it was what seemed to be someone’s tips. a considerable amount of cash. enough to make up what i was missing for rent and actually afford groceries, too.

yes. i did. i stuffed it in my skirt band, pulled my shirt over it, and left hastily.

it was the first and last time i ever stole from another. to this day, i have not forgiven myself for it. even as i have insured it never, ever again happened.

i went back the following year, hoping to find someone there to talk to who might know who it was i had stolen from… intending to pay it back and ask forgiveness.

the restaurant had closed.

i have carried the brick of it ever since.

yes. it is hard to remain innocent when tempted by sudden circumstances.

theft is not the only sudden circumstance to tempt me in life, of course. but of all of these, this one is one in which i can at least say the lessons of the past and the insistence upon practicing remorse and resolution in relation to them have kept me from having this particular difficulty cross-over into other manifestations.

in the end, a lesson so thoroughly learned that, for once, i have managed not to ever repeat the mistake. my kindness to myself in this, not only refusing utterly to submit to such temptation again, but to meditate often on the suffering i brought to that anonymous someone so many years ago and cultivating that of me which not only refuses to submit, but seeks to close the window of opportunity whenever i find it, that no other be tempted.

and here, finally, forgiveness to myself. realizing how the lesson has brought benefit, perhaps i may at last set this poor old brick aside. remember more the lesson that the circumstance which brought its learning.


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