Parable about responding skillfully to unwanted emotions
Yes, River, thank you! Your post was helpful to me too, and I love the metaphor of the Venn diagram. I thought I'd offer a parable that's in the same spirit; it's a parable that comes out of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and it's about responding skillfully to unwanted thoughts & emotions. The parable has been really helpful to me over the years, and I hope that perhaps it will be helpful to IG, and others, as well. I'm quoting it from a book (called Start Where You Are) by Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron. Here's the passage containing the parable:
“Milarepa is one of the lineage holders of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Milarepa is one of the heroes, one of the brave ones, a very crazy, unusual fellow. He was a loner who lived in caves by himself and meditated wholeheartedly for years. He was extremely stubborn and determined. If he couldn’t find anything to eat for a couple of years, he just ate nettles and turned green, but he would never stop practicing.
One evening Milarepa returned to his cave after gathering firewood, only to find it filled with demons. They were cooking his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed. They had taken over the joint. He knew about nonduality of self and other, but he still didn’t quite know how to get these guys out of his cave. Even though he had the sense that they were just a projection of his own mind – all the unwanted parts of himself – he didn’t know how to get rid of them.
So first he taught them the dharma. He sat on this seat that was higher than they were and said things to them about how we are all one. He talked about compassion and shunyata and how poison is medicine. Nothing happened. The demons were still there. Then he lost his patience and got angry and ran at them. They just laughed at him. Finally, he gave up and just sat down on the floor, saying, ‘I’m not going away and it looks like you’re not either, so let’s just live here together.’
At that point, all of them left except one. Milarepa said, ‘Oh, this one is particularly vicious.’ (We all know that one. Sometimes we have lots of them like that. Sometimes we feel that’s all we’ve got.) He didn’t know what to do, so he surrendered himself even further. He walked over and put himself right into the mouth of the demon and said, ‘Just eat me up if you want to.’ Then that demon left too."
Of course, the parable isn't suggesting that one should act on one's unwanted thoughts and emotions. I think that the story is just such a great metaphor for how helpful it is, and what a relief it can be, to just acknowledge & accept the presence of these thoughts and emotions in the present (then, one can focus one's energy on responding to the whole situation - the whole situation that triggered the thoughts and emotions - in a way that's as loving as possible for all involved).
Last edited by Snowbunting; 06-01-2011 at 09:31 PM.