on a bridge

I forgot to mention yesterday that this week’s posts are about transitions.  May be it was obvious from the Hakuin post on Monday but I thought I should state the obvious because sometimes what I think is obvious tends not to be.  Hence my tendency to get in a lot of hot water when I’m asked to play with others.  Oh and, that’s the Manhattan Bridge up there.

It occurred to me one day last week that, when things don’t go smoothly, my assumption that I don’t play well with others could be somewhat one-sided.  Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I don’t play well with others who don’t play well.  With me or anyone.  Of course, I freely accept that there are times when I don’t care to play well with anyone.  Be assured, should that happen to you, it is quite intentional and independent of what a wonderful, considerate and kind person you are.  It’s one of the Dharma Seals: the (your) self that I am not playing well with is empty; don’t sweat it.

In the transitions from shrink to Chaplain, I’m noticing all kinds of ways I don’t play well.  OK… I choose not to play well.  Organizing my volunteer time and my field trips is giving me wonderful experience to watch this unfold.  Everyone has an idea of who I am and most of the time they’re holding a conversation with the concept and not the me that’s present.  Fascinating.  It was particularly evident when I called one Chaplain to ask if we could meet for a conversation about… well… being a Chaplain.  He immediately launched into all the reasons why I simply could not, could not talk to him about what he did because it was oh-so-secret-being-of-the-Spirit and all that, you know.  And besides, he intoned, there was clearly a deep, dark reason why I was seeking out a career in spiritual care – likely as an escape from my inadequacies in my current profession.  I thanked him and said yes, I would definitely call back when I’d exorcised my demons.  Same Dharma Seal: the (my) self he was not playing well with is empty; I didn’t sweat it.

Anyway, I’ve bought this bridge to Chaplaincy and will have to walk it even if getting across may be more challenging than I thought.  All joking aside, I do approach the situation with an honest humility; I mean, what the heck do I know about being a Chaplain so asking to be an understudy is appropriate.  But if someone doesn’t want to play because they are caught in the concepts of win/lose, that willingness to understudy can come across as threatening, I suppose.  These are tough times and everyone is fearful for their jobs – even volunteer ones.  After a few abortive meetings, it became clear that I either had to become invsible or I had to find a better quality of rebels to play with.

Thankfully, in the dismal corridors of mental health care, there are a few good rebels left and I have chosen to be co-opted into starting my Chaplaincy internship with them.  So far, we have been sharing our strategies for being difficult and how to put in the little extra effort required to be bloody impossible.  (This is a great by line from a blog called English Pensioner.)  We are raucous, wicked, and wild.  Sometimes though, but not too often, we even say Spiritual Things like “Good God!”  or “What the Hell?!”  I think I can play well here.

Thank you for practising,


7 thoughts on “on a bridge

  1. I’d probably play better with others if I knew the rules of the game.

    Oh, I remember: kindness, generosity, compassion, equanimity, joy, creativity, resiliency, etc. Those rules.

    • I don’t like those rules! They say nothing about chocolate-covered almonds or chai tea with steamed soya.

      Seriously, it gets tough when even those rules are seen as open to interpretation. What was that you wrote about Mazu jerking Baizhang’s nose? These days Mazu would have been sent off for social skills training! Or sent to the Dean for harassment. I’m certainly not advocating violence; it’s more an observation that our willingness to be sloppy about what constitutes upaya is getting us in a lot of trouble. JMO.

      • You know, I’ve been troubled by my “loving-affliction” posts on Ox Herding – they fly in the face of so much Buddhist dogma and I’m not wise enough to accept that burden.

        And yet I know/believe that rules & life are not a good mix. The infinite flowing and diversity and challenges of life require something that cannot be spoken or understood.

        Still, for those of us who lack deep insight and wisdom, of the type evidenced by Mazu, rules might help us stay out of the ditch.

        • I think those have been your best posts on Ox Herding. We have come to accept much Buddhist verbiage despite that it changes language in ways unacceptable. Concepts like afflictions and attachment have given rise to judgemental thinking and dualities that we accept all the while claiming nonduality and nonjudgement. When you point out that we have to work within the rules of language and be honest to the cultural norms of usage, it is going to crack open dogma. As well it should.

          The burden of challenging conventions and accretions is necessary if we are to avoid even larger burdens. Hotei says, Pick it up, put it down. Besides, why else own an Ox? 😉

  2. Reading your post reminds me of what my friend the Buddhist nun would say to me: “a no is as good as a yes”. I think you rightly perceived the no-ness of the people playing a game that doesn’t work for you. Sounds like you have found team mates that are more suited to the game that’s underway in your court.

    Yes it’s good to be desperately honest with ourselves but sometimes I think we can be just a titch too hard on ourselves, n’est pas?

    • We can. I am – still. But at least, I’m learning that I can also lighten up. The path is getting carved out and I’m reminding myself that, no matter what happens, Plan B is already in effect! 😉

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