Not letting opponents nor others hijack our power nor schedule our upset
All of us have experienced stepping out into the day all exuberant and feeling like nothing can shake us. Then, we are shaken or angered by a car that sprays us with mud, a prosecutor who does something underhanded (for instance, violating the lawyers’ ethics rules by telling a non-client witness not to talk with opposing counsel), a lying opposing witness, or a judge barely masking his or her unjust agenda. Each instance calls for action and not weakness, but not anger nor loss of power. The mud splattering justifies considering a calm talk with the driver; the prosecutor acting underhanded needs to be confronted directly or with the appropriate authorities; and the unjust judge at the very minimum calls for a huddle with colleagues about reversing the judge’s unjustness, and consideration about whether an effort should be pursued to have the judge brought before disciplinary, impeachment, or re-appointment authorities.
All of the foregoing actions can be done in as calm a manner as the character I watched in a 1950’s World War II movie who calmly gunned down Mussolini’s soldiers while enjoying chomping on an unlit cigar. As much as I would prefer to present a less violent image, this movie scene exemplifies for me the power of calmness in battle.
A great thing about practicing the taijiquan form daily and taijiquan pushing/sensing hands sparring is that the form helps increase my ability to take action in a powerfully relaxed, centered and harmonized way, and the sparring reminds me that there is no end to the challenges we will face from other human beings, that minor adjustments are often all that is needed to neutralize an attack, and that I am at much less risk of being rattled by what others do by continuing my taijiquan practice.
It is not weak to act in a powerfully relaxed, clear-minded and calculated way. To do otherwise is weakness. Nor is it weakness to keep compassion and empathy — and the realization that they one day can turn around for the better — for those who test our patience, calm, and limits. The most powerful approach with such people, in addition to having compassion for ourselves and for them, is to empty our minds of expectations of wrongdoing or other bad acts by them, but to remain appropriately on guard at the same time.
Today’s blog entry was inspired significantly by last Monday’s discussion about Dipa Ma by her student and Buddhism/meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg, who blesses me and many others in the Washington, D.C., area with monthly meditation and dharma talk sessions at the Campaign for Tibet. Dipa Ma transcended tragedy after tragedy — with two children dying and then her husband, when her remaining child was but five-years-old. As Sharon relates:
One day a doctor said to [Dipa Ma]: “You know, you’re actually going to die of a broken heart unless you do something about it.” Then in Burma, she proceeded to do meditation practice. Dipa Ma subsequently became a very accomplished meditator and spiritual person. One day in Calcutta, Dipa Ma had a visit from her Western student who had been practicing in India for several years, and whose parents very much disapproved of his path. As Sharon relates in A Heart as Wide as the World, Dipa Ma gave the student $12 that she had been given as a donation, saying “Go buy a present and send it to your mother.” Sharon says that this action of Dipa Ma exemplifies the Buddha’s teaching of reconciliation that “if you are angry with someone, you should give them a gift.” At minimum, I can give the gift of non-judgment and compassion to myself, my allies, birds of a feather, and those with whom I have conflict. That does not prevent me from working to stop them from violating justice in the future, but makes me more powerful on that and all paths.
Similarly, I can give metta/lovingkindness meditation and prayers to myself, my clients my allies, opponents, and those with whom I am in conflict, without weakening myself, and in fact empowering myself further by practicing non-anger. Metta meditation can powerfully proceed as addressed here, ending with the following wish: “May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be free from suffering.”