Leakage. It’s a term that describes the seepage from all the drippy ickiness stuffed away in the back of our emotional brain. When reality isn’t what my ego anticipated, the resulting train wreck leaves leaking tankers of disappointment, resentment, frustration, and other toxic materials. Lately, I’ve been preaching about the “Just World hypothesis.” That’s when we hold a world view of deservingness: good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. As Buddhists we are not supposed to have preferences for who wins a lottery or who gets gished in a traffic pileup. We are supposed to practice a different world view: good things happen; bad things happen. But I’m willing to bet that the level of seepage suggests we’re still holding onto the “good-bad” piece of the Just World hypothesis.
In my Just World, people who lie and fabricate information to get ahead end up languishing in obscurity with shrunken mouths and bloated bellies. Apparently this doesn’t happen. Learning that my hypothesis has scant data to back it leaves me feeling like bad things are happening to me. And rationally, if “bad things happen to bad people” and I think bad things are happening to me, what the heck does that say about me! Oh, I know what you’re thinking: Now she’s really gone off the deep end into the sewage! And you’d be right. That twisted thinking that I’m bad fires up my anxiety. It puts me in a sticky place where resentment and impatience with the course of my life erodes the container of practice, leaking toxic drippings all over the path.
It’s not enough to practice being present to these sticky feelings. It’s also important to strengthen the container so the toxic material can be held gently and handled with care. This practice of containing the difficult and unwanted is not about suppression or dramatic indulgence (that’s what got us here in the first place). It’s an act of generosity to ourselves and all those around us who would suffer deeply from the leakage. When I acknowledge what I’m feeling, it’s like putting a tracking tag on a barrel of toxic waste. Even if we can’t transform it just yet, we at least know where it is.
Practice is patience. Practice is endurance. Roll out those barrels and print off those labels. There’s a load of work to be done on these tracks.