Chaplaincy Core Training is over but I’m still here at Upaya finishing the second part of training in Trauma Resilience. It’s been ten days of generous teachings that began with a taste of the Five Buddha Families, Unconscious Bias, and a whole lot of inner dharma woven through. On the second day, my body reacted to an accumulation of dust, pollen, travel, and having spent the previous week housed above a helicopter hangar dodging leaking fumes of diesel oil. My throat closed, my chest contracted, and breath came in wheezy gasps.

It’s what happens when we are challenged to take on certain things; things that signify a threat to our system. The body in its wisdom shuts down the doors to vital organs like the lungs and does its best to expel whatever intruders flew in under the radar. An initial encounter with deep dharma can be like that. I contract, protecting treasured views and assumptions. My fear-based reactions are to render myself cold and still; distant and impenetrable.

If the Five Buddha Families are a typology of my form and shadow, apparently I play in the Vajra dimension where things reflect clear, sharp, and precise. The shadow is the manifestation of a character that is opinionated, authoritarian, and demanding of perfection. Thankfully, the aspects of other parts of the mandala soften the edges. But perhaps I could work a bit more on skillfully being opinionated, authoritarian and demanding of perfection.

As part of one exercise we were asked to find our “neurotic” side on the mandala. In other words, how do our everyday anxiety-based reactivities manifest? Initially, I thought it was the Padma family which represents a passionate need to magnetize others into connection. Being a foodie, fit with Padma because it’s such a soothing process when I’m distressed. And certainly, my somewhat incessant need to make sure everyone has a link to community that can embrace them could be called a neurotic need to prevent harm from befalling the lone traveller.

As I looked deeply and contemplated on the motives and intentions of the behaviours which – when unfulfilled – cause me suffering, it was a surprise to see that the need to link people together is just a subset of a need to be sure everyone has what they ask for. It’s a form of generosity gone manic, a contraction, an allergic reaction against the truth of suffering. No wonder when people ask me for a little support and I hose them down with care, they step away – some as far away as the next continent! It’s interesting to tease this out, because another aspect of this neurotic need is to hold onto resources just in case someone needs them. Good thing, before I left, I cleared out my family room and bookshelves of thirty-years worth of accretions, including all the recipe clippings I have never and will never use. This is the shadow side of the Ratna Family.

So, questions for you:

What are you giving away relentlessly in the deluded hope it will be helpful?

What are you holding onto in the deluded hopes it will be useful only because it was once?

4 thoughts on “contract

  1. Yesterday I took a PD belt to my friend Gini, who is stuck with an unused feeding tube in her stomach for a while yet (after a long illness). The belt was 6 years old, dating to my painful foray with peritoneal dialysis, in which you wear a tube into your abdomen. I decided firmly about 2 years ago that I would never try to do that again, even if I had to go on dialysis via permacath in my neck. So the two belts (special order) sat in a drawer.

    It pleased me greatly to give it to Gini, and she was happy to get it. You insert the tube into belt, which you can adjust to fit your waist. It holds the tube safe. I didn’t keep the things because I thought they might come in handy, that’s the truth, but they did. I had years of just being able to do the necessary. Still recovering from the transplant, but I don’t care much about stuff these days unless it sticks to the kitchen floor. I don’t think you were writing about stuff, either, I’m just in a summer lazy-wakening morning. I love being retired.

  2. Giving away myself, my time, my energy in the hopes of being useful
    it does’nt help me a bit to find out who I am, what I need
    delaying my own awareness of this obscures a vision of clarity
    the guilt and fear about giving me the time and energy overwhelms
    holding onto the idea that someone ;out there; will save me from myself if only I could be more ————fill in the blank——-

  3. The answer to both questions: my self.

    And yet, that answer sounds self-ish in light of the noble truth of selflessness. But somehow sacrificing the self and then wanting to hang onto it and protect it from the sacrificial knife doesn’t seems selfless either. No matter how I look at it, it’s all about the self…

    Your post is wonderfully honest and insightful, helping me to take a closer look at this whole issue of self-sacrifice and selflessness, especially in light of my recent illnesses – giving too much of my self away, creating inner conflict and body illness…. Thank you…

  4. It is easier to answer what am I holding onto than what am I giving away. I think I hold on to my self image, this egoic self in an habitual clutch believing that it is useful to me now and in the future.

    What do I give away, dharma thoughts to those who don’t want them??

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