The process of releasing toxic anger is essential if we are going to find peace and forgiveness within ourselves. At times, we might resist doing so, because we somehow feel “justified” in our anger. After all, the indignity with which we believe we were treated was unfair and perhaps even inhumane.
I get it. Having been savagely raped and beaten for more than an hour by four assailants, in 1983, certainly left me feeling violated and angry for many years. But there came a time when that anger no longer served me or any other purpose.
“What is anger?” an enlightened Teacher was once asked. His poignant and powerful response was, “Anger is a punishment we inflict upon ourselves for someone else’s mistake.”
Next to my Root Teacher, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, there has likely been no one else in my life who has had a more profound impact on my personal and spiritual growth than my friend and teacher of eleven years, Dr. Louise L. Hay.
I first met Louise in 1987, shortly after being released from the hospital with a rare form of pneumonia for the second time. Four years earlier, I was brutally attacked, raped and beaten by four men in South Florida.
At the time, I was a young Franciscan-Buddhist contemplative, walking back to the monastery, when these men, who themselves had endured unthinkable discrimination and abuse at the hands of the police, since immigrating to this country, left me for dead on the streets of Hollywood, Florida.
But it would be in another Hollywood… this time West Hollywood, California, that my friend (and major crush) Louis Nassany, would take me and my boyfriend, Ronn, to a beautiful, poised and unassuming woman’s apartment on Santa Monica Boulevard, where about 20-30 other men were sitting, standing, and hanging on her every word, as she talked about our capacity for healing our lives.
Two weeks later, we were in a community centre in West Hollywood, and there were over 75 guys, then 90, and then more than 100 of us gathered for what had become known as “the Hay Rides”.
We were most men living with the dis-ease that had become known AIDS, and we were fighting for our lives.
Soon, the eighteen months in which doctors said I would be dead had come and gone. I’d begun healing my relationship with my family, with my spiritual tradition, and for the first time in my life, began unapologetically living a more authentic, loving and vibrant life as an openly-gay man.
Everything in my life began to become more “whole” during the eleven years that Louise was my teacher. Her monthly cards and letters encouraged me, inspired me, and resulted in my being privileged to become the founder of the Zenkondo Centre, and host of a weekly radio show, “Inner Alchemy – the Science of Spiritual Living”.
This morning, August 30th, 2017, my beloved friend, teacher and inspiration to millions, Louise L. Hay transitioned from this life in her sleep, at the age of ninety.
She will be missed, and her legacy will live on for generations.
What effect does our perception and sense of separateness have upon our day-to-day experience of life? In this installment of Inner Alchemy, we’ll begin unpacking our entanglements, and look at how understanding the quantum and physical universe can have a dramatic impact on our lives.
One of the central tenets of the Buddhist philosophy is the concept of interdependence.
The philosophical dimension of this concept focuses on the recognition that nothing has value in and of itself. Everything is composite, and everything is impermanent or transient. Everything undergoes a process of change, most easily evidenced in our own human lives.
We are not today the person we were physically, emotionally or psychologically, five or ten or twenty years ago. Why? Because the notion of “self” is a delusion. “We” are really nothing more than a composite or amalgam of systems and conditions. The “self” that we cherished when we were twelve no longer exists. Therefore, we can say that it had no essential value, since it was actually nothing more than an idea we had.
Today, I choose to shift my focus from resentment toward forgiveness. I recognise that forgiveness is a gift I give to myself. It is an opportunity for me to release the energy that holds me hostage, and distracts me from growth. As I forgive myself, it becomes easier to forgive others.
Each moment is an opportunity for me to release a limiting belief or fear, and to forgive myself for holding me back from experiencing the full potential of that moment in the past.
I know that my experiences are the result of my thoughts. And without a need for blame, I recognise that there are times my thoughts take a less productive turn. And that’s alright, because it’s part of the experience of learning. But I also realise that I am free to choose new thoughts.
And so today, I choose thoughts which free me from the decisions of my past… which bring new possibilities and reinvigorate my journey, rather than distracting me from it.
I let go of resentment I have felt toward those who have let me down. I release the need to punish those who have hurt me. I know they were doing the best they could, and their mediocrity and lack of commitment is their business… their lesson to learn… not mine.
I am limited only by the barriers I create in consciousness. And so I release those barriers now, and recognise my essential nature as Pure Awareness.
Today, I allow ease and compassion to guide my thoughts and energise my actions. I celebrate the limitless potential that exists in the present moment, and choose to mindfully turn my awareness to that moment… to live from that place alone… which is the source of my power and potential.
I forgive myself and others effortlessly, and let go of the old stories that held me captive.
The wisdom of the Buddha points out that holding onto anger is like holding onto hot coals, but hoping that the other person is the one who feels the pain. It’s like drinking poison, and expecting the other person to die from it. And so it’s time for me to let go of these foolish endeavors and resentments.
I’ve allowed another to hold the pen that was writing my story. Today, I choose to write a NEW STORY, in my own hand…
And as that story unfolds the joy and abundance that are my birthright begins to express in every experience… every turn.
Forgiveness comes easy and release gently follows.
On the Formal Practice, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche writes:
You can experience that dreamlike quality by relating with sitting meditation practice. When you are reflecting on the breath, suddenly discursive thoughts begin to arise; you begin to see things, to hear things, and to feel things. But all those perceptions are none other than your own mental creation. In the same way, you can see that your hate for your enemy, your love for your friends, and your attitude toward money, food, and wealth are all part of discursive thought.
In Buddhism, we recognise that this aggregate of systems and senses we imagine is our “self” is merely an illusion. One of the principal benefits of this practice is that it restores a sort of gentleness… a soft, comforting reminder of what our True Nature, which is Consciousness, or Śunyata, or Love, or if you prefer the primitive metaphors, God(dess), etc., already knows. It’s about the process of rediscovering truths that we already possess, which might have been obscured by the dreamlike state.
Everything that appears in your experience is a manifestation of your mind. And it is also a reflection of something within you that needs your attention.
While we dream, the events in our dreams seem really to be happening: we find ourselves in another location, conversations takes place, we experience pain or pleasure, fear or calm. Anything can happen in your dreams. All the appearances are there. But despite these appearances, no such events have really occurred while you slept. And so it is with what we imagine to be our “waking state”, which is but another level of dream-consciousness.
The first instruction is very simple, yet profound. We should not lay the blame for anything on others. Now, as simple as it sounds, I know that there will be, for many of my readers, a momentary rolling of the eyes, because this sounds rather absurd on the surface. After all, if someone attacks us on the street, why would we not say that they were to blame?
We must recognise that every experience begins in our minds. And if that is true, and if our perception of this “self”, which is really nothing more than an aggregate of senses and systems, then it is also true that we are responsible for bringing forth the misery in samsara from beginning was time. To the degree that we continue this self-cherishing, self-cleaning attitude we will experience suffering and harm in this lifetime.
Now it’s also very important, to understand that we don’t mean instead of blaming other people, we blame ourselves. Our objective, is to take a closer look at what blame feels like altogether, and then to guard ourselves against the temptation to engage in that hurtful, meaningless, and immature practice.
When you really think about it, it takes so much energy to place blame. I believe that most occurrences of placing blame have their roots in fear. When we are afraid that someone is taking something from us, doing something that will hurt us, making us look less important, less honorable, less “good”, then the ego self, begins the process of pointing fingers.
The very moment that we begin to take 100% responsibility, when we begin to say, “I have chosen this experience, these are the seeds I planted, and now I am reaping the crop at harvest time,”everything changes. When we realise that the ordinary mind throws responsibility on someone else, and that the perception of the other is an illusion, we return to the point of power within ourselves. Pure Awareness.
I like to end this section of the commentary by sharing something Albert Einstein wrote, which might have just as easily been written by a great Dharma master:
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us, “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
Nothing exists independently of consciousness or mental designation, therefore it becomes easier, and in fact, essential, that we release the need to place blame.
On Friday, this country will witness the death of justice and democracy, as one of the most vile and evil sociopaths of the past two millennia assumes what will become the throne of darkness, where once so many Great People served with honour and dignity, when it was known as the Oval Office.
There is nothing I can say to reason with those morally bankrupt and politically retarded imbeciles who are not deeply disturbed by what Herr Drumpf stands for. And I need not say anything more to those (overwhelming majority of American voters, and the rest of the world), whose moral compass, integrity and commitment to the American Dream remains intact. Because no further comment is necessary.
Now it’s time for the #RESISTANCE… for good people to stand up for social justice, due process, compassion and the protection of our Constitution that KGB Agent Orange has shown no respect for whatsoever.
I therefore intend to observe a period of non-violent protest, beginning at 2 PM today, and continuing through 3 PM Friday. But this will not be a protest in which the hatred, intolerance, lies and treason of Der Führer is met with angry words or facts. Instead, I choose to raise voices of a different kind, every hour, on the hour, with a bold declaration of MY INTENTION and the intention of those on the side of righteousness. (Those will be posted on my facebook wall.)
My hope is that people will join me in sharing those hourly posts, and for more than 24 hours, refuse to utter Donald Valdemort Drumpf’s name, or speak anything but our intention… Truth to Power!
I’ll leave you with this quote, with which I choose to end my discourse that began on November 9th, and mark the beginning of my personal revolution.
“We can build a beautiful city. Yes we can. Yes we can.
We can build a beautiful city. Not a city of angels, but finally a city of Man.” — Stephen Shwartz (from Godspell)
Master Thich Nhat Hanh once observed, “Most of the boundaries between traditions are artificial. truth has no boundaries. The differences are mostly in emphasis.” Letting go of the perception of boundaries can free us to experience a deeper, quieter, and more still version of Truth. In the Buddhist tradition, we call that place of letting go, “calm abiding”.
I’ve often thought it interesting that some Buddhists, especially in the Tibetan tradition are so quick to pontificate that “all phenomena are empty,” and yet they get their uttarasanghas in bunch so easily, decrying this monk’s lineage or that teacher’s orthodoxy! If phenomena are empty, then doctrine and dogma are equally empty, and all wisdom paths ought to be given the same respect.
A couple months ago, I was approached by a number of practitioners, who wanted to know if I would consider reinvigorating the Contemplative Order of Compassion as a centre for wisdom and dharma. And I agreed to give it some thought, as I took into account many of the areas of my work and practice at the end of the year. It is something I am still giving a great deal of thought.
Some have encouraged me to consider incorporating the order back into an institutional organisation, so that we could have access to greater funding for the projects that impact so many people’s lives.
I’m not sure that will ever be a good idea, as who and what we are arose from the journey out of institutional religion, to a place where post-denominational expression of ancient teachings and new thought philosophy could be unencumbered by dogma and doctrine.
Others have suggested that we formalise the beliefs and teachings in such a way that Zenkondo becomes a spiritual path itself. And I think we’ve done so already, without allowing it to become another institution or religion.
It may be time to explore the possibilities of forming a greater community, possibly even a physical community again. Time will tell.
In the meantime, let’s simply agree to let go of the idea of boundaries, and begin working toward expanding the work of compassionate service to others. And we will be well on our way to rediscovering what the future holds.