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Advice on Getting Calm from the Dhammapada Pairs

We here are struggling! For sure--with ourselves, with each other, we are always struggling. One important thing to recognize when we are upset is that none of us is perfect. We are matter and energy, coming together, that's all. There's no judgment in that. For the most part, no one is looking over our shoulder, telling us what to do or be. We all do the best we can making choices, with the resources we have been given. That said, we can end up in some crazy and desperate places!

When we are making choices about our health (and other things), there's a kind of tricky passage we find ourselves navigating between taking full responsibility for our current situation and feeling empowered by that; taking full responsibility for our current situation and feeling shame, frustration, regret or guilt about that; or putting the responsibility on some other person or situation, which in the end leaves us disempowered, injured and victimized. The Pairs clearly warns against the third scenario, so we take that advice and are left with the other two. How do we cope with shame, regret, and guilt?

You might say, "There actually is someone on my shoulder telling me what to do and be. I have an angel on one shoulder and a demon on the other!" It's kind of true. Probably fair to say that most of us are repeatedly intending one thing and doing something else. Carolyn Myss calls this being "incongruent." One of the primary areas where she encourages spiritual growth is just here--locating the authentic voice behind the angels and demons and letting it be our consistent guide. There are frequently at least two if not more voices in our heads, and a lot of them are unkind. And there we are. When we are feeling shame, frustration, regret and guilt, the voices that we think are our angels are being unkind. How does that make any sense at all? Don't they know we are just matter and energy coming together? That we're all here doing the best we can given our circumstances? That we all here are struggling?

Our mental states go hand in hand with the way we perceive things. If we can keep patience with our own limitations and those of others who are here struggling with us and remain tranquil, reserving judgment, allowing things to be as they are rather than how we think they should be, ease will follow, as a shadow that never departs.

Buddhism: The Dhammapada, John Ross Carter and Mahinda Palihawadana tr.Oxford University Press 1987.

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