What kind of standards do we hold one another up to?
With a huge part of our practice being about acceptance and patience, one would think that we should have no standards with which we hold others accountable. But let’s face it, this is real life and we interact with so many people on a daily basis. Family, friends, business associates, clients and customers, wait staff and more. And don’t we assume certain actions and responses from each of these individuals? Depending on the time and place, as well as our own frame of mind, these expectations can be small or great. And certainly our own level of mindfulness is a powerful factor in which we manage our degree of expectation. With complete and clear comprehension being the ultimate path, as well as Right View, we all often fall short on a regular basis.
One thing that we can examine is the basis with which we form these expectation of others. Questioning not only the validity of them, but also the level of entitlement that we somehow believe we deserve. For instance, if you are waiting an exorbitant amount of time for your food to be served at a restaurant. This would certainly seem justified, as you are paying for your meal and for the service. But even this type of expectation assumes a great deal, most of which is founded in our own ego. In moments like these, we feel that we are the most important person and that our needs demand they are filled. While in reality, we can have no idea of all the other factors that may be contributing to a delay in our meal. Lives could be at stake, health concerns with the food, emotional difficulties that an employee is having, or so many other things that we cannot know about. At this moment, our mindfulness is absent, our desire is great, and equanimity (upekkha) is nowhere to be found.
Like the meal that we hunger for, our lives are filled with constant situations that bring ego and selfishness to the forefront. Without mindfulness there is no peace, no acceptance, no virtue or compassion. And with this understanding, any of us can learn to practice in each of these moments. Over and over throughout each day, like a tiny bell ringing in our mind, this awareness can be a cause to pause and breathe. Asking yourself “where am I?”. Are you present in the moment with clear comprehension, or are you developing stories in your mind that only create disturbing emotions?
If you are at peace right now, this may seem like an easy task to accomplish. But the time to observe this is when things do not go your way. Whether at work, home, the restaurant or the car wash, listen for the reminder bell to bring you back to the present. Begin by asking “where am I?”, then bring your breath to the rim of your nostrils. Breathing in, we can feel the coolness of the air and connect with our body. Understanding that we are breathing in life. Breathing out we can feel the warm air escape our body and understand that we cannot cling to this breath nor can we fill our lungs with the next one.
Standards are only a delusion created by the unskillful mind in attempt to make certain all that is not. And while this may seem to be a very scary place to reside, it is just the reality of this life – or as Bhante Punnaji says, “the insecurity of life”. That discomfort that we feel on a regular basis, and what we Buddhists like to refer to as dukkha, are really the mental formations that we constantly create in our own mind. And so long as we have standards an expectations, this discomfort will thrive and our suffering will continue. But with practice we eliminate the delusion and understand that acceptance is the beginning of destroying our ego. Not with some magic pill or potion, but with skillful and loving determination that has to start with ourselves, deep in our own heart. Today, let that begin with me.