Thursday, August 27, 2009

Taking Things Personally

There has been a lot of heated discussion about race in recent weeks in the blogosphere. I've been on numerous sites, Buddhist focused and non-Buddhist focused, and similar discussions are there. It mirrors the heated town hall meetings and discussions here in the U.S. about health care, which really have as much to do about race and power as they do about any health care plans.

Much of the talk that I have seen on-line are sincere efforts to bring some clarity to this most muddy of issues. However, there is also some definite talk out of frustration, which is understandable, but given the forum of the internet, usually leads to more talk out of frustration.

Unfortunately, part of the issue tends to be that people are taking things personally. It's the mind of "This something that was written was written directly about me. I have to respond, I have to stand up for myself." Of course, the reality is that it's never really about you. Even when someone is directly saying it IS about you, it's actually some image that person has conjured up about who you are and/or what you have done.

Now, this doesn't mean that we should just let things go all the times. Being passive isn't called for in some situations. But there is a very big difference between responding and reacting .

When we respond to a situation, we are aware of the impersonal quality of what is occurring. Life is occurring, and we are part of that life occurring.

When we react to a situation, we view what is occurring as a personal threat, as an attack, or as a punishment. Life is happening ONLY because I did something, or I am something someone does not like, or I did something that deserves to be punished.

Now think about about, does the world really work that way? Is it really possible that things are occurring solely because of you, and the interplay between you and one other person? It's pretty damn unlikely. There are a myriad of factors that come into play in any given situation. The "you" and "I" are only part of the equation, and usually a tiny part at that.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote: "When we cannot communicate, we get sick, and as our sickness increases, we suffer and spill our suffering on other people."

A major part of communicating effectively involves coming from a place of non-reactiveness. Being calm enough to take in the jumbled, confused expressions around you without having to defend some territory called "I." It's really not an easy task, and most of us - me included - fall flat fairly often.

But if I'm learning anything from blogging, it's this way of communicating with others. To be who I am without clinging so hard to the I.


Kyle said...

Yea, I took things personally because of the emails of racial slurs and comments about my son. My son has Down's Syndrome and I tend to get protective of the most important thing in my life.

I think if everyone knew the whole picture they might realize why I have been so defensive. When people like Scott over at Djbuddha comment that racism against white people is perfectly fine, and then the emails come, what am I supposed to do???

Nathan said...

Hi Kyle,

Sounds like there's been a lot of difficult"behind the scenes" action going on. I saw your post about some of it, and will check out your more detailed post when it arrives.

Hang in there.


Kyle said...

I posted what I have to say on Arun's thread in the comment section. I'm not gonna post about it anymore.