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Thread: This practice is subtle

  1. #1

    This practice is subtle

    I wanted to relate something that occurred to me the other day. I write this as a testament to the metamorphosis that this Practice can begin, and that sometimes its effects are so subtle that we barely even notice it until later.

    On Friday of last week, I sent an email to a co-worker about another email I had to audit for professionalism and such. The email had some issues with it, that I felt could be misinterpreted by the reader. As the auditor, this email had a problem one way or the other, either it was an intentional thing, which means the representative wasn’t being professional as they were expected to be, and the supervisor should address that; or the representative made a typo and should be reminded to double check their work before sending a communication to a member.

    I was careful in my email to ensure that I explained my thought process, as I find it is best to think about questions the other person my have about my point of view and answer them in the initial email. The response I got back was that “I’m pretty sure it was a typo, to the detailed lecture probably wasn’t necessary.”

    Now, prior to my beginning this Practice, I would have become angry and probably responded with an email that was littered with passive aggressive remarks, and a snide tone, but in a way that wouldn’t get me in trouble.

    I found, however, that my response was completely different. My first thought was, “I wonder what I said that made it seem like I was lecturing her. I should go talk to her so that she understands that that wasn’t at all my intention.” On my way up to her office to apologize for the misunderstanding, I found out that she wasn’t in the office that day. I asked another supervisor if they knew where she was, and I was told she was at the hospital with her father who had just gone into conjunctive heart failure.

    Immediately, I emailed her back and offered my sympathy and any help I could.

    The point is many fold here. First, we can’t know what has happened to another person to cause their actions or reactions to be what they are, so it is important to have compassion towards all beings. Also, that even though we keep and hold no thought of change or progress or reward in this practice, the effects of it cannot be denied. It was only after I sat and wondered this morning how my co-worker’s father was doing, that I realized the difference between how I would have reacted long ago versus my instinctive reaction now. Anger and hurt pride became concern and compassion, completely and naturally.

    On that note as well, I emailed her this morning to ask after her father, and I have not received a response. I would ask, if you could, to include both her and her father in your thoughts and chants.

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: This practice is subtle

    Christopher;

    Good forward movement. Like i said somewhere else this morning, I've been practicing zazen for sixteen years and expect it will take a little longer
    Thanks for sharing that

  3. #3
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: This practice is subtle

    Christopher,

    I posted something similar to this a few weeks ago and can relate to how wonderful moments like these are!

    Another step on the path...

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  4. #4

    Re: This practice is subtle

    Quote Originally Posted by Shokai
    Christopher;

    Good forward movement. Like i said somewhere else this morning, I've been practicing zazen for sixteen years and expect it will take a little longer
    Thanks for sharing that
    Truly! Shakyamuni began practicing 2500 years ago, and he's only half way there! If my practice is even a centemeter as deep, I will be thankful.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dosho
    Christopher,

    I posted something similar to this a few weeks ago and can relate to how wonderful moments like these are!

    Another step on the path...

    Gassho,
    Dosho
    And many more to come, I hope.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Ekai's Avatar
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    Re: This practice is subtle

    Thanks for posting this. When you are upset with someone and if you don't know the whole story, it is very easy for the mind to spin off into stories and create perceptions that are probably not true. It really helps to see clearly what is going with the other person so you can respond with empathy and compassion instead of reacting with anger or aversion.

    Shokai,
    I like the new Avatar.

    Thanks,
    Jodi

  6. #6

    Re: This practice is subtle

    Here is a story I sometimes relate from my life, true story ...

    For several years, my wife and I volunteered at a Hospice for the terminally ill. I was late to get to work there one morning, and took the toll road ... but did not have any small change (I think it was 25 cents), and only a large $20 bill. The woman in the toll booth could not take the large bill, refused to accept my promise to pay double on the return trip, gave me a hard time, filling out forms and blocking traffic too. I got a bit hot under the collar and told her off a bit. Jerk!

    Not two hours later, I run into the same woman, crying next to her dying mother's bed in the hospice ... True story.

    Everyone's life has many causes and conditions that brought them to that place. The fellow who cuts you off in traffic may be worried about losing his job, or the rude sales clerk may just be having a bad day. I try to keep that in mind now.
    Gassho, J

  7. #7

    Re: This practice is subtle

    Thank you for sharing this. I deal with these "moments of diplomacy" frequently in my work, and have found that I am better able now to consider the whole scope of interactions with others. I still get pretty heated sometimes, but I no longer let it show and temper my responses. Not sure getting upset will ever go away, it's such a visceral reaction. One can hope!

    Gassho,
    Matt

  8. #8

    Re: This practice is subtle

    Thank you Christopher,
    its very motivating to me,
    _()_
    Peter

  9. #9

    Re: This practice is subtle

    Just thought I'd give you an update, I spoke with my co-worker yesterday and she said her father is doing much better now. I'd like to say a deep thank you, to all those of you who kept her and her father in your thoughts, chants, and prayers.

    Gassho
    Gassho
    Gassho

  10. #10
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: This practice is subtle

    Hi Heitetsu,
    Thanks for the update. I think the most important thing to take away from this is the realization on how little we actually know about the lives or intentions of others VS how much we "fill in the blanks" with our own stories or emotions. Whenever I catch someone being what I perceive to be an ass I try to remind myself that I don't know the whole story. Example: there are times when we see people driving crazily. Too fast cutting people off driving on the shoulder etc. We can think "who the he'll is this guy that he thinks he is so much more important than everyone else who is obeying the laws?". I think that is short sighted thinking and when I catch myself having such emotions I try to step back and think "what if??". What if he is rushing to the hospital? I know when my wife went in labor last September(she went quick!) Im sure I was "that guy" who others may have been thinking was a jerk for my poor driving. My bad days remind me that other people have bad days too. Usually I'm a happy go lucky kind of guy that gets along with everyone. But when my dog died of cancer I'm sure I came off as a jerk to a lot of strangers who didn't know the grief I was experiencing. There is always more than meets the eye. Hopefully we can remember that in those times when someone or something isn't "right".

    Gassho,
    John

  11. #11

    Re: This practice is subtle

    I am glad he is improved Christopher.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences. It reminds me of why I need to practice.

  12. #12
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: This practice is subtle

    I admire your compassion in this situation, Chris. When I get those types of emails, I find the best response is no response at all. Just sit with it. Silence. Some reflection on how I may have done wrong (or lectured, in your case) or been misconstrued is certainly appropriate, but responding to others' responses tends to lead to more responses, and so on, ad infinitum. Here's the alternate scenario: You go up to talk to the person and they feel confronted. "It's not enough you have to lecture me in an email," they say, "but you have to come up here to personally confront me on it also!" At which point you try and explain your good intentions, but it's too late and they don't care. Of course, your scenario worked out in a completely unexpected positive way, and not all such scenarios are as dark as the one I just threw out here. But: Damn, I'm a cynic lately.

  13. #13

    Re: This practice is subtle

    It's hard to know the nature of another person's response. I guess one can only hope that the nature of their intent can be seen by the other person.

  14. #14
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: This practice is subtle

    Sorry to go off-topic here, but I am always amazed at how people misconstrue positive intent. I teach an interviewing class every semester where one of the assignments is to review short transcripts of conversations. Inevitably, every semester, I show them very benign segments of transcript and they interpret them negatively. Even the most innocent exchanges people take offense to. "They're disrespecting me" is the standard complaint with lots of variations on that theme. Then I will act it out live with them and they will go, "Oh, that wasn't so bad. BUT..." and off they go into their over-developed sense of self-protection. There's so much fear out there that a lot of people (young people, from my experience, but maybe also older people) seem to automatically jump to the worst possible scenario in order to protect themselves from any potential harm. From words on a page! To try and get this back on-topic, what ends up happening is that the person with good intent has to defend themselves and their good intent, such as what you meant to do when you went to personally talk to your email correspondent. So maybe I'm a cynic because of everyone else's even greater cynicism, but spreading those good intentions is good practice, and it's probably better than the silence I advocated above.

  15. #15

    Re: This practice is subtle

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    There's so much fear out there that a lot of people (young people, from my experience, but maybe also older people) seem to automatically jump to the worst possible scenario in order to protect themselves from any potential harm. From words on a page! To try and get this back on-topic, what ends up happening is that the person with good intent has to defend themselves and their good intent, such as what you meant to do when you went to personally talk to your email correspondent. So maybe I'm a cynic because of everyone else's even greater cynicism, but spreading those good intentions is good practice, and it's probably better than the silence I advocated above.

    This is true Alan, but what you are saying can also be seen in the act of cynicism itself. Many people are comfortable in believing that others are not capable of seeing the good intent in another's actions, and this paralyzes them from acting before they can get hurt. "Why bother? That person will only misunderstand, and I don't want to open that can of worms!"

    This is why Right Action is an important part of our Path, it both admonishes us to act uprightly in our daily conduct, and to act in a way that is beneficial to all beings, as well as reminds us that in order to have Right Action one must, necessarily, act.

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