There is a well known fossil in Mongolia of two dinosaurs locked in mortal combat. A Valocirapto is clawing a Protoceratops that is biting the Valociraptos’ arm. They have been holding this position for approximately 80 million years, and they will remain hardened in time for who knows how many more millions of years.
If we were to put imagery to what resentments and conflict look like within us, this is a pretty good likeness to what it would look like. When we cling to anger and judgments’ towards others or even ourselves, we become hardened, unbendable and stuck in time. It is such a waste of energy and robs us of too many precious moments, which we can never retrieve. It also blocks movement and progress towards new possibilities of being and doing.
Think of someone, or, a situation that infuriates you, that swells you up with anger and judgment and you will see what happens to your body; you tighten and become hard. Your breath shallows and you are frozen in that energy.
In that state, nothing but destructiveness and violence is possible. What happens alongside this emotional reaction is that a chemical response of adrenaline and cortisol floods your body, which, unless you do something to redirect your focus, can turn into blind rage. When we repeatedly react aggressively, we develop an addiction to those chemicals and that state; this makes it more difficult to take a different path. We become hardwired for conflict. To let go of anger feels almost like dying; like being defeated. So we cling to it for better or for worse. That’s when false pride kicks in, cementing us in that state.
Life and Love can no longer flow and lend their influence to a more sober approach that would enable reflection, sharing and communication, which, in turn, encourages finding a middle ground where conflict can be resolved and a solution can be found.
The fact may be that someone may have done something that caused an experience of insult, hurt or injury. Yet, even with that, out of all the options available, why continue to make choices that hold on to the anger and hurt? No one benefits. Taking oneself too seriously, which leads to self-righteousness, is what limits the possibilities of opening, forgiving and letting go.
Letting go and forgiving does not mean I condone what was done, it means I am choosing to not let it take me down a path that I know can only lead to more pain and hostility, for myself and the other. I choose to learn about myself and the other. Cultivating compassion and understanding for the myriad of ways our human foolishness and mistakes entangle us, and often hurt ourselves and others, is really important in the process of letting go.
Staying cemented in our opinions and judgments will only keep us hardened like the dinosaurs, which perpetuates suffering.
Here is another possibility of response reflected in a parable of Buddha:
Buddha was sitting under a tree talking to his disciples. A man came and spat on his face. Buddha wiped it off and asked the man “What next? What do you want to say next?” The man was puzzled because he had never encountered that response before. He had insulted many people before and they either became angry or were cowardly. But Buddha was like neither, he was not angry nor in any way offended, nor in any way cowardly. He had just matter of factly said “What next?”
Buddhas disciples, though, became angry and reacted. His closest disciple, Ananda, said, “This is too much, and we cannot tolerate it! You keep your teaching with you, and we will just show this man that he cannot do what he has done. He has to be punished for it. Otherwise everybody will start doing things like this!”
Buddha said “You keep silent, He has not offended me, but you are offending me. He is new, a stranger. He must have heard from people something about me, that ‘this man is an atheist, a dangerous man who is throwing people off their track, a revolutionary, a corrupter.’ And he may have formed some idea, a notion of me. He has not spit on me. He has spit on his notion and idea of me-because he does not know me at all, so how can he spit on me?”
“If you think on it deeply,” Buddha said, “he has spit on his own mind. I am not a part of it, and I can see that this poor man must have something to say- spitting is a way of saying something. There are moments when you feel language is impotent-in deep love, in intense anger, in hate, in prayer. There are intense moments when language is impotent. Then you have to do something. When you are in deep love and you kiss the person, what are you doing? You are saying something. When you are angry, intensely angry, you hit the person, you spit on him, you are saying something. I can understand him. He must have something more to say, that’s why I am asking, “What next?”
The man was even more puzzled! And Buddha said to his disciples, “I am more offended by you because you know me, and still you react!”
Confused, the man returned home. He could not sleep the whole night. Again and again he was haunted by the experience. He could not explain it to himself, what had happened. He was trembling all over and perspiring. He had never come across such a man; he shattered his whole mind, his whole pattern, his whole past.
The next morning he returned, throwing himself at Buddha’s feet. Buddha asked again, “What next? This, too, bowing at my feet, is a way of saying something that cannot be said in language, for which all words are a little narrow; it cannot be contained in them.” Buddha said, “Look, Ananda, this man is here again, he is saying something. He is a man of deep emotions.”
The man looked at Buddha and said,” Forgive me for what I did yesterday.”
Buddha said,” Forgive? But I am not the same man to whom you did it. The Ganges goes on flowing; it is never the same Ganges again. Every man is a river. The man you spit upon is no longer here- I look just like him, but I am not the same, much has happened in these twenty-four hours! The river has flowed so much. So I cannot forgive you because I have no grudge against you.
“And you are also new. I can see you are not the same man who came yesterday because that man was angry-he was anger! He spit, whereas you are bowing at my feet- how can you be the same man? Those two people, the man who spit, and the man on whom he spit, both are no more. Come closer. Let us talk of something else.”
Two key insights are revealed here: first, that when someone spits on you, metaphorically, they are actually spitting on themselves. Second the compassionate response, where Buddha is not caught up in self importance, but rather is considering the life and feelings of the man as well and is meeting in the present moment rather than the past. No violent reactions, only a genuine response that enables freedom and goodness for both.
So what if someone spit on you, judged you falsely, or made a mistake? Why dwell on that? Why turn to stone about it? Conflicts and misunderstandings happen. It’s a part of the journey. Breathe, open, let go and be willing to look deeper. It’s definitely not easy to do this, but it is possible, and it is the only solution for conflict resolution. Even if circumstances don’t enable direct contact and resolution with someone, it is still possible to achieve it within oneself. Ho’opono pono.
Love all that you see-with humility. This is one of three Hawaiian Kapus-sacred directives. In order to love all we see, this can only come from a sincere place of humility and willingness to step out of prehistoric reactions and pettiness, and move towards more enlightened responses. We choose to feed our Buddha Nature or our primitive nature.
Isn’t it time to stop all the fighting? It doesn’t get anyone anywhere. How else can we create the families, communities and relationships we hope for, except to cultivate understanding, open and let go? That action alone ensures that joy and goodness will flourish, for everyone. ALOHA.