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Thread: The self-caring Bodhisattva

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    The self-caring Bodhisattva

    A number of recent posts and happenings in my own life have brought me to this question: What role does self-care have in being a Bodhisattva? The B-vow is all about others, (read this next phrase with the best whiny voice you can muster) but what about meeee :twisted: Too much care for others can lead to self-neglect and burnout, and too little can lead to selfishness and nihilism. So where is the balance? How do we find it, keep it?

    My mantra below says courage/love, and today during bows it hit me that I need the courage to love myself, whereas I have always thought of it more as loving others or just expressing love more outwardly, which is a lot easier sometimes than loving oneself, frankly.

  2. #2

    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    Hi Alan,
    as Jundo is regularly saying, "self and others (not two actually)"*, or something of the sort. So as far as I can see it, we just lob a dollop of care wherever it appears to us to be needed, at any particular time. Nothing to find, nothing to keep, just get on with it, and then get on with not getting on with it.

    You're right of course: loving 'others' often feels easier, especially if we have some sense of being virtuous or self sacrificing attached to it (like we're secretly hoping to gain some merit by doing so) or if we're doing it as a displacement activity to avoid difficult feelings about ourselves. But in those cases I think we have to just try and see these tendencies for what they are and love them too.

    Hopefully in day to day to life there are plenty of opportunities to show love (for "yourself/others"), but back on the zafu there is always the metta practice which is really worth getting stuck into until you actually feel the way in which loving yourself is the same as loving others and vice versa. I don't know if it's supposed to, but it always strikes me as really funny when I get a glimpse of that. It just tickles me.

    gassho,
    Michael

    *maybe he doesn't always say that, I'm sure he'll let us know either way...

  3. #3

    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    Spot on Michael!
    I was thinking along a similar vein when I read the question. Take care of your self and you're taking care of the universe. That said, neglect the universe and your cutting off your own nose. This is not an excuse to allow us to feed and comfort our egos either.

    In my own corner -I like to help most times but I am a push over by times. Seeing some one needs help I jump in. some cases become repeat and even start to "force their foot in the door" when im no longer Jumping to "help them" - and yet i still help. Im no longer being compassionate or helpful... Im enabling a nasty habit and negative relationship. The cost is me becoming irritated and short with others (usually some one not deserving) for various reasons. In this case the best help would be to know my limits - and respect them/myself a bit more. Doesn't mean being mean...just firm.

    Anywho great question and answers above and more will follow below im sure!

    Thanks for getting me thinking... a great help!

    Gassho
    Shohei

  4. #4

    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    ...The B-vow is all about others, (read this next phrase with the best whiny voice you can muster) but what about meeee :twisted: Too much care for others can lead to self-neglect and burnout, and too little can lead to selfishness and nihilism. So where is the balance? How do we find it, keep it?
    Hi,

    This is one basis for the Metta Verses (our chant of "Loving Kindness", a recommend daily practice which comes from the South Asian traditions of Buddhism) to begin right at home ... with the "I" ....

    viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1199

    1. May I be free of suffering; may I feel safe and still.

    2. May I be free of enmity; may I be loving, grateful and kind.

    3. May I be healthy and at ease in all my ills.

    4. May I be at peace, embracing all conditions of life.


    The Loving Kindness then moves out in our mind toward others (self and others, not two by the way ), then comes back to one self as "all of us, all sentient beings" in an ongoing circle.

    You know, much as in the airplane where we are instructed to "secure the oxygen mask" on our own face before we can think to set about saving others ... or the lifeguard who must secure her own balance and flotation before she can pull others from the waves ... I mean, there is no "I" from one perspective, but ya better feed and nurture it well. :shock:

    As the great Bodhisattva, John Lennon, pointed out ... saving the world must begin with you "freeing your mind" as the starting step. (But ya know its gonna be 'alright'. 8) )

    Gassho, J

  5. #5
    disastermouse
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    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    A number of recent posts and happenings in my own life have brought me to this question: What role does self-care have in being a Bodhisattva? The B-vow is all about others, (read this next phrase with the best whiny voice you can muster) but what about meeee :twisted: Too much care for others can lead to self-neglect and burnout, and too little can lead to selfishness and nihilism. So where is the balance? How do we find it, keep it?
    Well that's easy! Nihilism is painful and makes life difficult. Self-neglect is painful and makes life difficult. Somewhere between those two poles lies a path at least less painful.

    Go with that!

    Chet

  6. #6
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    I think caring for one's self also assists in caring for others.If you're burnt out always caring for others it's time to step back not push yourself to ruin. How one finds that balance is up to the individual. Trial and Error is a good way ehehehe. But i think it depends on the individual. your valid individual needs may be different from another's. So strive for that balance point with you.

    Dave _/_

  7. #7
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    I appreciate all the comments. In the helping professions (bodhisattva ideal) we teach that you need boundaries in order to remain healthy, that a lack of boundaries leads to suffering. But in Buddhism we teach there are no boundaries, that it is the boundaries we create which lead to our suffering. Dilemma? Or just two sides of the same coin?

  8. #8
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    Alan, I think the question you pose is one of relative and absolute. In the absolute we find........ , in the relative we have things that bother us..limited time and energy..emeotional worries. So I say boundaries are important given one's realizations. I think ( ohh that is probably a keyword indicating i have no idea) one can get to a point of realization where we can better live in the no boundaries area. But if we're not at that point yet..well boundaries can be helpful, we are human beings after all.

    Shonin _/_

  9. #9
    Stephanie
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    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    "Self-care" is a nice idea, but it's tough in practice.

    I have good boundaries professionally and now, thanks to my professional training, also have good personal boundaries.

    But the work will still get to you. I realized that a while ago: that entering into the helping professions is allowing yourself to be changed by your clients. It's not "giving yourself up" in some twisted masochistic way, but in the sense that you can't do the work without letting others, and their suffering, into your heart. There are "techniques" helping professionals can employ that are more or less technical, but the basis of the work is the relationship with the client. Which requires opening yourself and entering into some pretty painful places. The Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen has a term for it that is very apt: "Entering into the dragon's cave."

    To me, that's the bodhisattva vow... the willingness to let it all in, to let it all change you. You don't have to give up boundaries for that. There's no way but to be broken open by the world. It's just that being a bodhisattva you don't fight or resist it. You let yourself be heartbroken, and disillusioned, hurt and angry, but keep coming back to the stillness at the heart of it all, and that which lies on the other side of disillusion. I don't think there's any way to hold on to a purely "love and light" perspective if you're in the trenches long enough.

    I imagine an ideal bodhisattva as having very good boundaries, as guiding and leading through wisdom and being able to say "no" or refuse a request when appropriate or compassionate. A bodhisattva can be that way and still be open, still not resist what comes their way.

    As the song goes, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TS8nii_HJ8[/video]]"There's no way out of here..."

  10. #10

    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    I appreciate all the comments. In the helping professions (bodhisattva ideal) we teach that you need boundaries in order to remain healthy, that a lack of boundaries leads to suffering. But in Buddhism we teach there are no boundaries, that it is the boundaries we create which lead to our suffering. Dilemma? Or just two sides of the same coin?
    I think it is the perspective from which you are viewing the question. For most people who aren't buddhists, when they think of helping others, it seems to me as though they think in terms of personal sacrifice only. Like, the more I give up for others, the more helpful I am being. But what if they give up so much that they not only don't have any more to give, but are now in need of help themselves? That could be money help, or counseling help from the stress, or relationship help because they spend all their time helping others but not spending time with their loved ones,etc. In Buddhism, I think that we look at this as helping everyone including myself because we are all one. Since there is no separation between us, helping others would necessarily include me as well, thereby enabling me to continue to help others.
    The reminder to have boundries, I feel, is there because elsewise some people would forget themselves in order to do what they thought was a good deed. In Buddhism, I feel that we understand that we and they are one, so we could not forget ourselves as long as we remain mindful of that fact.

    IMHO

  11. #11
    disastermouse
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    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    I appreciate all the comments. In the helping professions (bodhisattva ideal) we teach that you need boundaries in order to remain healthy, that a lack of boundaries leads to suffering. But in Buddhism we teach there are no boundaries, that it is the boundaries we create which lead to our suffering. Dilemma? Or just two sides of the same coin?
    I think it is the perspective from which you are viewing the question. For most people who aren't buddhists, when they think of helping others, it seems to me as though they think in terms of personal sacrifice only. Like, the more I give up for others, the more helpful I am being. But what if they give up so much that they not only don't have any more to give, but are now in need of help themselves? That could be money help, or counseling help from the stress, or relationship help because they spend all their time helping others but not spending time with their loved ones,etc. In Buddhism, I think that we look at this as helping everyone including myself because we are all one. Since there is no separation between us, helping others would necessarily include me as well, thereby enabling me to continue to help others.
    The reminder to have boundries, I feel, is there because elsewise some people would forget themselves in order to do what they thought was a good deed. In Buddhism, I feel that we understand that we and they are one, so we could not forget ourselves as long as we remain mindful of that fact.

    IMHO
    What's driving the boundary? Fear? Competition? Confusion?

    Chet

  12. #12

    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    I would say for most it would probably be fear. Fear of being used or becoming an enabler. Fear of not being able to say "no" or feeling guilty for having boundries. We, as Buddhists, I think would have less trepidation at these ideas because, from the perspective of the bodhisattva vow since we are trying to save ALL sentient beings, we ourselves are included in that. Self caring in that fashion would help us to be able to say, "no, now I am no longer helping you, I am enabling your situation to continue", or to know when your helping another person begins to place you in a dangerous position.

    IMHO

  13. #13
    disastermouse
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    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    I think that shikantaza practice allows us to give spontaneously. True compassion and generosity are natural states - they are what arises when wrong views are no longer imbued with identity.

    I strongly suspect that Alan's 'compassion' and 'generosity' arise from identification structures and hence cause suffering. Moving away from Alan, my own mother has had these issues. She has for years found her identity as a codependent and has consciously or unconsciously chosen, and sometimes even created, dependent types specifically so as to express her identity in the only positive way she knows how.

    Her husband just died and her mother is dying. My brother and I are relatively independent. My sister is receiving a lot of help with finances for school - but she's going for Nursing, so she'll be independent soon enough! My mother seems to be embracing her new 'freedom', but she's also struggling heavily with identity issues.

    Many caregivers I know follow this pattern. I, however, am not one of them. LOL!

    (het

  14. #14

    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    Thank you so much Chet for this great reminder.

    Why did not you stop there, just at the first sentence? The following sentences about Alanla, your mother, you...




    gassho


    Taigu

  15. #15
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    I think I take better care of others than I take care of myself, not that I am all that good at either, and I think I am not alone in this at all. Right? I don't think my suffering is all that great on this issue, it's just something I have recently become aware of in a new way as I study the self/forget the self, which brings me to...

    Self as other (other as self?) and metta are the right answers to my original question, at least intellectually, and I knew this all along. What I am trying to get to is how to put them into practice, finding a way to do that consistently, for both myself and others. Ultimately, it's not about what we say or believe, it's about how we act in accordance with what we believe and say. Studying the self via zazen is what brought to awareness my inconsistency, my lack of full accordance, and that awareness is leading me into new growth. Part of that process involves sharing on this forum. That's all I'm doing, so please don't be overly concerned about my suffering on this one.

    Also, correct me if I am wrong, but there seems to be a lot of self-sacrifice in the Bodhisattva way. But not to an extreme, of course, so what is the relationship between martyrdom and Buddhism or the Bodhisattva way? (BTW, before anyone "suspects" anything, I don't believe I have any designs on being a martyr).

  16. #16

    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Also, correct me if I am wrong, but there seems to be a lot of self-sacrifice in the Bodhisattva way. But not to an extreme, of course, so what is the relationship between martyrdom and Buddhism or the Bodhisattva way? (BTW, before anyone "suspects" anything, I don't believe I have any designs on being a martyr).
    IMHO martyrdom doesn't make sense if you experience it that way. At each step you take care of everything in the way that seems most in line with practice. As time goes on there is less and less to protect, and you provide more and more. But it's painful and sacrifice is an Issue, that doesn't feel right.

  17. #17
    disastermouse
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    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    Thank you so much Chet for this great reminder.

    Why did not you stop there, just at the first sentence? The following sentences about Alanla, your mother, you...




    gassho


    Taigu
    Um, because I didn't?

    (het

  18. #18

    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    Quote Originally Posted by scott
    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Also, correct me if I am wrong, but there seems to be a lot of self-sacrifice in the Bodhisattva way. But not to an extreme, of course, so what is the relationship between martyrdom and Buddhism or the Bodhisattva way? (BTW, before anyone "suspects" anything, I don't believe I have any designs on being a martyr).
    IMHO martyrdom doesn't make sense if you experience it that way. At each step you take care of everything in the way that seems most in line with practice. As time goes on there is less and less to protect, and you provide more and more. But it's painful and sacrifice is an Issue, that doesn't feel right.
    I think this is fundamentally right. Sometimes, we can serve the greatest number of people by keeping our own body-mind healthy and fed, getting up each day and working at our ordinary job. Just being a bus driver on the city bus or telephone line repairman is a Bodhisattva's work, for he/she carries all the people who could not otherwise get where they are going and contact who they need to contact. I believe that, in modern society, we are all interconnected, and one does not need to only be a Gandhi or Mother Theresa to have impact on countless lives. In many ways, the receptionist for the pharmaceutical company that will invent the drug which cures leprosy is doing as important work to ease the suffering of the victims of the disease as the nurses who volunteer with Mother Theresa to bathe and comfort the ailing leper. All are needed, everyone has their role ... all Bodhisattva's work if undertaken with the correct spirit and eye.

    (That is not to say, of course, that both are not needed ... nor is it to say that everyone in life, I think, would not benefit from a "hands on" period in life bathing the sick, cleaning their dirty sheets, holding their hands and the like. I think we should --ALL-- volunteer for that kind of service too ... WEEKLY for a few hours if possible, for longer periods if possible. We must do this kind of "hands on hands" work).

    On the other hand, I like to think that there are times to be martyrs too ... to be a fireman who runs into the burning World Trade Center to save hundreds of lives, to be a soldier who jumps on the live grenade to save his brothers. I like to think (we will never know for sure until the time is right) that we all have that within us when called for.

    Yes, there are times when circumstances may call for a Bodhisattva's martyrdom.

    Gassho, Jundo

  19. #19
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: The self-caring Bodhisattva

    Did I really say self-sacrifice? ops: ops: I wish I could say that was a mistake, but I meant it when I said it, even though it contradicts self as other used earlier in that same post and contradicts the whole regular guys as saints thing I wrote in another thread. I was clearly confused :!:

    Let me try again. I think a better way to say it might be that the Bodhisattva way calls for ego-sacrifice and self-discipline. Ego-sacrifice means to give up that what about meeeeee whine while also having the self-discipline to be consistent over time and effort/non-effort.

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