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Thread: 8/31 - A Bigger Container p.49

  1. #1

    8/31 - A Bigger Container p.49

    Well, let's talk about anger ... without getting angry about it.

    Anger-practice is one of the trickiest for me. Sometimes, for all human beings, the pride/self that Joko discusses takes over, and anger seems to arise from the most primitive parts of the monkey brain. It possesses us. I don't have a big problem with anger (unless it is my weekly spat with the wife about household stuff or something ... I should film one of those and put it on the blog.). I don't get too upset usually. But, still, I find it hard to always avoid minor feelings of anger.

    The advice that Joko gives is, I think, the standard wisdom heard from Thich Naht Hahn and others ... stand back, observe, give it time, find the unity and peace within, and so on. Great advice, and maybe the best that can be done with this powerful emotion.

    Gassho, Jundo

  2. #2
    i’m with Jundo here. It’s usually easy to agree with Jundo’s insight, what with his omniscience and infallibility. Oh how i long for my very own Enlightenment, i would feed it and walk it every day.

    Alright, so i’m back to the same problems i had before, which i think have been expressed by others before. Joko is writing us a self-help manual here. i don’t know what else i would expect, really, as i guess Zen is all about helping yourself to help others or something. i like the following thoughts:

    But as long as we live we find there is a limit to our container's size and it is at that point we must practice. ... As we do this practice we must be charitable with ourselves. We need to recognize when we're unwilling to do it.
    No doubt i've pushed on the edges of the container a time or two, and had poor reactions. i think i'm particularly good at the walking away part, but not always the following bit where i’m supposed to study my reactions, though i am getting better at that.

    We don't have to get rid of all our neurotic tendencies; what we do is to begin to see how funny they are, and then they're just part of the fun of life, the fun with living with other people. They're all crazy. And so are we, of course.
    i'm glad i get to keep some of my neurotic tendencies - i'm afraid i'd get terribly bored otherwise.

    i guess the thing that threw me off before (and apparently continues) is that the majority of my "intelligent therapy" came from myself (therapists generally told me i really understood what was going on with myself and sent me on my way), as did the learning to laugh at my own neuroses, and it came before i began practice in earnest (i read a lot of Taoism and Buddhism long before i started sitting). i guess i also let go of one important attachment - some previous "perfectionist" tendencies - which were, literally, driving me crazy. Nobody can abuse you like you can abuse yourself; which brings us back to Fight Club, which has some really great insight regarding letting go of attachments - though i hope the extensive physical self-abuse isn't necessary.

    i agree with Joko, we do eventually realize that all of this is terribly funny. There’s nothing more absurd than watching someone get frustrated and irate because they can’t get over themselves – especially when that someone is you. Pride, neuroses, anger - i've got 'em all. Usually once i start to get angry i like to swear until i laugh.

  3. #3
    The whole time I was reading this chapter, I couldn't get out of my head that expression that "Once you open a can of worms, the only way to close it again is to use a bigger can."

    In other words, I got nothin'. I've read this chapter 4 or 5 times and I still have no idea what Joko's trying to say.

  4. #4
    Hi everyone,

    I think Joko’s message in this chapter is an important one, but she doesn’t really tell us the whole story. She says that pride is the root of our anger and prevents us from experiencing non-duality. I think we have to take a further step backwards and ask what the root of pride is. What are we trying to protect, what is our pride shielding? Of course, it’s our (small) self, ego, atman. Fair enough. The only problem is, as Buddha Shakyamuni told us a long time ago, there is no such thing as an atman, and our belief in this fictional entity (i.e. delusion of self) is one of the fundamental causes of our suffering, dukkha. So I think what Joko ‚ABC‘ calls is basically what remains when we recognize anatman, or, in other terms, non-self, non-duality, the mind ground, our ‚True Self‘ etc. And of course Zazen is the best means for experiencing this first hand.

    As a side note, I think it’s interesting how diametrically opposed Buddhist vs. non-Buddhist value systems sometimes are. For most non-Buddhists, pride is highly esteemed and is seen as something to strive for. The last time I was in the USA (Florida, where my parents and sister live) a couple of years ago I was shocked by the large number of bumber stickers with the slogan ‚I’m proud to be an American‘. Having lived in a country for the past 11 years where such things are unthinkable, it just gave me the creeps. :shock:


  5. #5

    feelings: a bigger container

    I like the way Joko picks up a topic--as if it were a tea cup--and examines it from all sides, all angles, the inside and the bottom, too. Then she sets it back down, in the same place it was before she picked it up--and now it stands out: a tea cup!
    This topic of anger--she handles the whole of it, and points to how the whole of it can be handled.
    Like giving directions to a location: the directions are not the journey.
    We are completely left to ourselves to find our way which has no destination, only a direction: endless Way.
    "Pride" feels old-fashioned to me as Joko uses it here, and doesn't do much for me--but I resonate strongly to the 'wanting to be right.' Ah, yes--this 'wanting to be right' stuff and nonsense--instant trouble making right there!
    I really appreciate the way she reinforces that for each of us, this is a unique process and we are cautioned to 'take it slow.'

    It's kind of funny that yesterday when I finished my comments, edited and all--I had over-stayed my time on line again and Treeleaf had automatically logged me out before I had submitted my comments--so all was lost, yet again!

    I was pissed!--right here on the remarks with regard to anger!!!
    But I wasn't angry---not like I was the last time this happened--(I'd already had to come to terms with that with the last posting I'd lost several times in a row!!).
    So this time, I just didn't feel the need to re-do what I'd done, I didn't need to rack the old sieve of a brain and retrieve what I'd said before--wherever it all went to/wherever it all came from--
    A day went by, here's the new posting...
    now let's hope it 'takes'!


  6. #6

    feelings: a bigger container

    one of the three poisons
    but in the right amount--it serves as a potent 'medicinal' I think.
    pure anger to me is pure energy an energy which requires the doing of something. (Even if it's 'doing' nothing--definitely the hardest thing to do with anger!).
    When it isn't 'pure energy', but funneled into a force for 'wanting to be right' as opposed to giving it open space in which to find what is the right thing to do--that's when it gets twisted up.
    Anger as an energy isn't wrong or right
    what I think we have come to look upon as anger is the misuse of this energy, the misappropriation of this energy, the harnessing of this energy for ultimately destructive ends.
    But anger can be very constructive and cleansing--I've used it many times to thoroughly clean my house!!! (True, there were also occasions in which anger was what got my house trashed to begin with!!!)

    As a person who experienced years of depression during high school, college, and as a young adult--I can say anger is probably responsible for my being alive today--it was the only source of energy available to me for a time. While it made no 'sense,' it kept me going.
    This roughish stuff has given me patience and tolerance with regard to others serving me helpings of their own senseless anger: it isn't personal--just because it's thrown at me, I don't have to catch it...nor do I have to throw any back (although it is mighty tempting at times).

    Sometimes I think anger is just there already--just looking for an opportunity to step out of the shadows--when people get into huge fights, it rarely has anything to do with the minor incident attributed as being the cause....that was just the excuse!

    Sitting with anger is a real trick. I've actually had the opportunity to do this, but I do not wish to discuss the situation or the circumstances here. It has been of great benefit to expose myself week after week to a situation in which I have been disrespected and baited. My first choice was to remove myself in the situation, but I decided to suspend an idea of 'outcome' and just take it week by week.

    It's been very instructive.

    I've definitely felt as if my ability to break down the poison of anger has improved.

    For sure it hasn't been easy, and it hasn't been pleasant, but it also hasn't been all that hard and it hasn't been unbearably unpleasant either. It sure is unpredictable--things will seem ok, and then Whoa!
    a rush of strong feeling/response.

    I'm glad circumstances have been such I got a chance to stay with it and continue to see it through and not just duck out. It's been like plowing a stony field. In the beginning--every step, a rock to remove.
    Then with each week, encounters with rocks still, but less of them--much more ease in interactions...

    Its very heartening, to feel the steady state of this emerging even-ness. But it isn't a steady state of a 'fait acomplit' it is more like
    a hula hoop--you can ease up on it a bit, but you really have to keep at it.

    At least that's what I find--Joko's image of 'a bigger container,' was one that made sense to me.

    Now, let me cross my fingers and hope these comments post.
    If not--no one will ever know I thought them, no one will ever see I typed them! And that is very ok too--it has been lovely just sharing these thoughts with myself.


  7. #7
    Hello all,

    I've fallen a bit behind (in my reading and my practice), so I've not read this or the previous two chapters yet (to say nothing of the wonderful commentary and notes provided by everyone here). I've printed everything out for review and hope to join the conversation tomorrow.

    Just thought I'd say hello again and mention that I'm glad to be back!

  8. #8
    Thank you everyone.

    I'm still not sure if I understand the "A Bigger Container" analogy.

    But the stuff about pride and anger makes some sense to me. I think that "pride is the mother of anger" is an astute observation. Perhaps anger is a way for the ego to protect itself. Saying that we are important... "I don't have to put up with this crap," "How could he say that to me," etc.

    Hmm... at some point I watched a special report about road rage on the national news channel. One of the psychologists interviewed was of the opinion that part of the reason for road rage is that drivers can feel quite territorial - the car and the patch of road it's travelling on are treated like one's house or fenced yard. So being cut off in traffic triggers the same defensiveness as when someone hops over your fence.

    Maybe dropping this sense of entitlement is an example of using a bigger container. I can't drive so this is all very abstract to me.

    Of course, public transit has its own frustrations. There are two regular bus drivers on my route. One consistently shows up at the stop 5 minutes early, the other one 3 minutes late. :x

    Like Keishin, computers are a huge source of frustration for me. I could have blistered paint with my response to the computer deciding not to recognise my iPod the last time I tried to recharge it, so both became completely unresponsive. A 10 minute Google search revealed that it was a "known issue" with my version of Windows, and suggested a number of work-arounds. The 3rd one worked. 'Known issues' really tick me off. And a week ago, I swore excessively at my parents' printer but that was probably because I got an electric shock trying to unplug the blasted thing.

    What's strangest is that, in my other life I was a computer programmer. And I didn't usually get nearly as mad when my own programs broke. Huh, go figure.

  9. #9

    a bigger container

    Hello fellow readers:
    You know, there's nothing like a zendo and it's sangha to really get the ire stirring and watch anger both from below and beyond 'flash point' among all the devout buddhists practicing there! We kind of have it easy, here at Treeleaf, and are not up under each other's armpits and such.
    Let me cite a few zendo examples: people who always pick the prime sitting spots: ie when it's hot, near the fan or window, when it's cold, near the heater or where there aren't drafts. People who make a practice to generously serve themselves the prime tidbits from the salad, from the vegetable medley, more than their 'fair share', with many others behind them in line. People who always park in the best space (in the shade or nearest the zendo). People who do not do a very thorough job when it is their time to be or help the tenzo (cook). People who take the prime spots to place their shoes. People who don't take the extra step to get a new role of toilet paper so others won't be 'caught short.'
    You get it, right? Monastery/schmonastery--it's just like 'real' life!!
    There's just no getting away from humans and our human-ness.
    In many ways sitting with other folks, increasing one's awareness, openly observing this mind, without blinking--it's like a mental paper cut--man does it sting! Everyone walking in silence and these thoughts just keep bubbliing and bubbling (like: "oh, look who's got the seat under the fan again") and then there's all the trying NOT to dwell on the observations awareness brings up--trying to impassively
    observe without judgement, without pejorative personalizations--all the while a string of expletives sears across the space between the ears. It's great fun, really! Everyone bowing to each other and all--while all this other stuff and nonsense is roiling away.
    Well, even buddhists can only take so much. At one monastery, when someone behaved in particularly bad fashion, their shoes would disappear! The roshi would have to appeal to the assembly to restore the shoes to their owner.
    How interesting we can be so oblivious to some things and so acutely aware of others.
    So please be aware--even as to the subleties--even here, at Treeleaf.
    Logging on and that quick little thought (oh, God, not her posting another long winded comment again!!--or gracious me, just how many topics is this fool going to post on today!!). Subtle ways we raise ourselves up and put another down.
    We are all nice and polite here, and Treeleaf is moderated as well--so civility is preserved, maybe even enforced!
    This is not a bad thing.
    At the same time, if we are unblinking in our vigilance we will see our very being is no stranger to a violent and brutal place.
    What could be a better place to start from--to really put our practice into practice!
    Every time a person, an incident can take us to this place within ourselves, we really need to thank them. It's like testing the cake with a toothpick--no, still raw, not fully cooked yet--still needs more time!

    keishin--who still and will always need more time

    (I plan to lay off posting for a spell...just sos yous knows)

  10. #10
    Here I am behind the curve again!

    Great chapter, I'm not sure if I understand all of Joko's analogies but have found some parallels between my own struggle to let go of anger and the points she makes.

    For me anger stems from an expectation of how other people should act, or how things should "be". This sort of thinking is in reality nothing more than delusion, so when I find myself being directed down that path to anger I try to step back from my expectations and try to find the understanding that nothing is certain and all things play out just as they are . . .it seems to help, I'm repairing a a few damaged relationships through cultivating this understanding.

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