“Leave people alone – just leave them alone!” Was one of the wisest things I was ever taught by a very unassuming Buddhist teacher I studied with for several years. I vividly remember sitting in the kitchen with her and her monk, not her monk as in her pet monk, no her monk worked for the centre she taught at.
Ok I can’t get this mental image out of my head now so I am going to share. Look away now if you are easily spiritually offended. Pet monk just conjured up the image of her sitting on her stool at the breakfast bar with her monk on a lead! Bowl of water at her feet. That just feels wrong! Funny but wrong. So moving on…..
I was expounding on how I was learning to feel compassion for my ex -husband. And if you knew how hard that was for me you would have been patting me on the back and pouring the celebratory green tea! Somewhat earnestly I told her that “I had come to understand that the only person who was suffering in our ongoing hate fest was me.” She nodded in agreement. And I felt very superior and awakened as I sagely said, “Well Karma is going to sort him out anyway so I don’t have to worry.”
There was a heavy pause, the kind of pause when you just know you have said something horribly wrong, the bottom just drops out of the moment. I thought they were going to swallow their tongues. I wished that I had in that moment. Oops epic fail in the compassion front. I guess I had been doing the compassion meditation thing wrong all this time damn it.
Apparently that is not quite the attitude one is meant to have about Karma. We are not allowed to use Karma as a get even tool! Buggeration! I am never going to get this right, so I quickly backpedalled, “Well if he is happy then he will be nicer to my kids and I won’t have to deal with all the drama.” I suggested somewhat hopefully. Apparently that didn’t quite hit the mark either.
How irritating to discover that if I want to experience inner peace and to become awakened and achieve Buddhahood, I can’t even wish Karma on someone! I must admit I did sneakily think to myself, “I bet if Buddha met my ex he would wish karma on him.” I am not proud.
“Oh.” Says I, “So what is the right thing to feel about this. Because to be frank this man has caused me and my kids quite a lot of grief.”
“Leave the man alone.” Was the gentle reply.
“Err your kidding.”
“No.” Smiled her monk, “She is right you need to leave him alone.”
“I do leave him alone, we don’t even talk, or text or breathe in the same direction.” I retorted.
“So then leave him out of your inner peace. He is not the cause of your suffering you are.” The monk smiled. I wanted to smack someone preferably my ex! Or the monk, but neither of those reactions was going to get me Buddha points.
“Err no I think you will find that …..” And I then elaborated in some detail about his many and numerous failings as a father and husband. Nice one!
“And again it’s nothing to do with him. This is your stuff, your mind, your point of view. The only thing you have to do is work on your mind.”
I have to say that I left our lunch date fully in a bit of a quandary, believing on the one hand that what they said was true, after all I had every reason to believe these two the peace and kindness that flowed from them was evidence in itself. But also believing that I would NEVER get it. I would go to my grave wishing karma on all on sundry who pissed me off. Especially my ex!
But there is a happy ending or perhaps its a beginning, like a good student I have taken their advice and now work on my own mind. I work within my own capacity within each moment. I learnt and continue to learn the value of “Leaving people alone.” And remind myself again and again that if I am suffering that is my stuff, and mine alone.
We can decide the stuff we choose to ruminate on. All kinds of nonsense will pop into your head throughout the day, judgements, anger, irritation, along with the nicer stuff, love, happiness, laughter, and excitement. That much we can’t change, but we can decide whether or not to hold that thought, we can learn to let it go. We can learn to be selective.
I selectively held my ex in karma prison for years. In the end I saw that it was me that was in a prison of anger, purporting to be compassion. Oh how I laugh, hysterically, head thrown back at my own ignorance. I wish I had had the keys to that prison sooner. But that was a lesson I had to learn all by myself, well with the help of a wise little Buddhist and her pet monk.
As a side bar, I did use the karma card to my teenager today, she is 17 and just emerging from the hell years, her sister who is 15 is just entering. She told me on her way out that she can’t cope with the attitude of her sister it’s unbearable and I had better sort it. I smiled and said, “Karma just slapped you on the mush.” Oh how I laughed.