One White Rose

One of my favorite spiritual teachers talks a lot about paying attention when you’re focused on what you don’t want. The words would be something like “when you’re really focused on what you don’t want….stop and ask yourself, ‘what is it that I do want?’” The idea is that the seed of success is there and you can pivot.

Here’s my experience.

I went to a Winter Solstice looking forward to the retreat……..a time to get away from routines, to go more into a monastic-meditative type space. I’ve had many experiences of coming away from Solstice renewed and refreshed spiritually in ways I never imagined. So I was looking forward to a break particularly from mental patterns.

I was 4-5 days into Winter Solstice and still fed up with how critical I was being of other people. The closer they were to me, often, the more critical I was being. It was all going on mentally so no one could see it or probably feel it. I hoped not. I wasn’t expressing any of it, just intensely affected by it. My mind seemed quicker than I was. As much as I was hoping for a breakthrough, if anything, I was being more critical, noticing others being critical, and being critical of myself for being critical. It was insanity.

Mixed in there would be thoughts that I would be so together that I wouldn’t notice these patterns of others or be bothered by them.………… it was all a mental tangle and there was no thought that was so clear or powerful that it led out of the tangle.

At some point in the process I suddenly realized—“I know what I don’t want—what do I want……what would the new behavior look like?” If I wasn’t being critical of others, what would I be doing? I could produce nothing. I could not describe it in any real way.

There was nothing really to do but sit with it. It felt good to at least have had the realization I did.
After another day it occurred to me: “Put one white rose on your altar”. That would represent what I did want.

When I came home from solstice I went right to the florist shop and bought it.

Sometimes when I was feeling critical and hypocritical I would in my mind concentrate on the rose, feeling the petals, smelling the rose, drawing it into my presence, feeling the essence of Rose.

One day I tapped into Google search “What is the opposite of being overly critical?” Right away I found some talks by Buddhist teachers, a variety of articles, and a few insights about qualities a new approach might have.

After a few months and during a period of intensely being fed up with the patterns of dwelling on faults I made an appointment with one of my favorite spiritual teachers, a guidance I can always rely on to cut through any situation I’ve ever presented. I call when it’s time and I’m ready.

I just picked one relationship and started out. The advice came straight back “you can’t stay out of their stuff, and they can’t stay out of your stuff.”

“Yes,” I said. “I feel like I have to go to some level of being a super spiritual person, somehow get to some amazing level of being to not be entangled in this.”

It seemed to me like I would have to almost die to my mind the way it was and die to myself the way that I am and become a super spiritual person.

“No,” the advice came back. “Not die to yourself but die to your story of who you are.” “You’re a perfectionist; you hold for yourself a standard of perfection. And when you do that you use a hierarchical way of seeing the world. ‘I’m making this much progress…..he’s making that much progress……she’s making that much progress.’”

It’s all about where we are going and judging, always judging where we are against the standard.

I knew in a second we were making progress.

I continued and turned to sort out a couple of things in my relationship with my mother who probably has a short time to live. She had fully accepted me as a Sikh 15 years ago after nearly not speaking to me for 10-15 years. Now she had transitioned back to a mild but real form of antipathy. “I want what my brothers have with her, an easy and fun relationship,” I said. “As it is, I’m self conscious that she doesn’t appreciate my name, the feel of my beard (she’s essentially blind), etc. When I’m self conscious, she’s self conscious and we have an interaction that’s mental, tight, a construct rather than the joy of unselfconscious hanging out together.” I wanted what my brothers had, an easy, fun relationship with her.

“What if that were her gift to you…” the answer came back. I didn’t understand. “What if it was her gift to you to not accept you?”

I had never thought of it that way.

“So I should add that to my ‘to do’ list?……..accepting my mother for not accepting me? My ‘to do’ list is already long. I don’t have any desire to add another self improvement project.”

“No, what if her gift to you is to show you that you have a more intense nature than your brothers, that you are a truth seeker, you will always go for consciousness, and what you have here is someone who is not accepting you and it is an opportunity for you to see where your consciousness goes when someone doesn’t accept you.”

“You are an intense person. So what, that’s the way you learn. Everyone learns in different ways. So that’s one of the ways you learn. So daah………….”

“It’s the kid in you that wants to keep score, to wish it weren’t so, to see how you’re doing, how the other is doing, how you’re all matching up to your story. That’s your kid. That’s not an adult.”

“Here’s what we would offer you,” continued the advice, “ if you drop the story and you just get to be who you are with all your warts, and the other person just gets to be who they are with all their warts and you are just hanging out together…………what would that be like?” “If they’re being a pain then just don’t be with them at that time…….If you’re being a pain chances are they will leave you alone for awhile. And then when you are each on your game, you can be wonderful companions.”

“What if it was perfectly OK to not like or really enjoy the other person based on circumstances, or their mood or your mood, or whatever was going on, and if there was nothing there to judge, that it was all what it was, and you didn’t have to keep score?”

“It’s your kid that keeps score, don’t be bothered by that. That’s just mechanical. Your kid keeps score and when you’re not grown up you go along with it. And your kid keeps score because he’s afraid.”
“And when you’re not keeping score then what’s left is YOU.”

“And the key to all I’m telling you is Self Acceptance.”

Wow. This was helpful.

The next time I went to visit my mother not only did I have a real and amazing time with her, she did with me also.

I’m learning and that white rose is regularly replenished and staying right where it is on my altar.

One Comment to One White Rose

  1. says:

    on Aug 5, 2013

    This is so honest, authentic, and helpful.
    Thank you.

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