Upon waking yesterday morning, I listened to Tamara Levitt’s daily meditation on my favourite app, Calm. After guiding me through a mindful breathing exercise, she told me to relax my focus. This is when things started to get interesting. The topic for today was protecting myself against other people’s anger. You know that uncomfortable, get-me-out-of-here feeling when someone is flying off the handle? Her advice was to imagine a protective arc around my body so that the other person’s anger would deflect off the arc and I wouldn’t be affected by the negative vibes. My Buddhist teachings also tell me to try to generate compassion for the angry person who has become momentarily overtaken by negative afflictions and cannot control themselves in that moment. Sounds like some useful, protective strategies, right?
So, yesterday morning after having listened to this advice just a couple of hours beforehand, I accompanied my 23 year old son to the local pharmacy to buy a Christmas present for his brother. Once he had selected some male skin care, we asked to have the box gift wrapped. We were offered white paper or red paper with white circles on it. Thinking out loud I uttered, “Neither of them are very Christmassy, are they?”. I wasn’t quite ready for the shop owner’s response who happened to be standing nearby and heard my words. She responded in an agitated voice and with an angry face, “The paper is red and white. Red and white is Christmas. Christmas is red and white. It’s most certainly Christmassy.” Okay. Perhaps for her. Not for this chickadee. To my mind, red and white is the Polish flag, the Austrian flag, the Red Cross, Griffith University, blood on snow, a Fire Blanket warning sign. For some wonderful, weird reason though, the morning’s teachings with Tamara Levitt popped immediately into my head. I could tell by this woman’s response that there was more going on for her than just the symbolism of red and white paper. She was agitated. As she spoke, the protective arc went up around my body. Instead of some clever, witty response to her words, I half nodded with, what I hope was, a fairly pleasant and neutral look on my face. Not a single word did I utter. She looked kind of shocked. She was expecting me to retaliate. I could see the suffering. I could see the pain. I could feel the anger and somewhere deep inside of me I truly didn’t want to add fuel to the fire. When we finally walked outside the pharmacy, I sighed out loud and felt like I’d scored a karmic brownie point. I had actually controlled my mind and my tongue. You rock girl! Thank you Tamara! Thank you Buddha! Thank you!
So, this morning, back I went to the same pharmacy to buy another present for a friend. I chose my gift and then, would you believe, when I went up to the counter, who should be there but Mrs Red and White Christmas Paper. “Is this a gift?” she asked. “No,” I replied, probably too quickly. Gosh, I wasn’t going to be caught that easily. I would take my non-gift home and wrap it myself with non-red and white Christmas wrap.
Anyway, there was some problem with the computer or something and the transaction all took longer than normal and she was very apologetic. I kept looking at her face thinking, “Just like me, you want to be happy. Just like me, you don’t want to suffer. Just like me. Just like me.” It felt kind of good to meet her again and see her through compassionate eyes. We’re all in the same boat, after all.
Just a few days ago I heard a Buddhist nun give a talk about this time of year and the way it can trigger many negative emotions. I get that. It happens to me. She said that often the kindest thing we can do for somebody else at this time of year is simply to stay out of their way. Cut them some slack. Shut up. No judgement. Be kind. No clever comments. No smart remarks. Just be kind. As I say in my poem, Kindness:
We have good days and bad.
When someone is grumpy,
It’s because inside they’re sad.
Be kind to this person,
‘Cause they could be you
And you’re never quite sure
What some have been through.
Be calm and be still.
Forgive them, I must.
I keep being kind.
I will win their trust.
Hey, it looks like this time I actually got it right. I won’t always though. Next time I’ll probably stuff up. I don’t care because getting it right, just this once, feels so damn good.
Take care and may you survive the silly season with a dash of kindness.
Love, Jen xo