Jesus has said that what defiles a person does not come from the outside of the cup or plate out of which one eats or drinks, but that which defiles comes forth from inside us. For what comes out of the mouth comes from our heart. (Paraphrased from Matt. 15:17)
We live from the inside out! Whatever is within us will be expressed somewhere, somehow outside us. Life is our mirror. All we need is the willingness to be aware, and to pay attention to what we discover within our mind. For this will be life as we experience it. It is our experience of life, not necessarily the truth of “what is.”
The Buddha names defilements as anger, greed and delusion, and refers to them as temporary visitors.
It is comforting to know that defilements are not only temporary but they are within our control, for they originate from within—from our perspective of the situation.
This means there is something we can do about defilements. This gives us dominion in that we have choices. We’re the ones that decide how we’re going to view any situation. We are not victims of circumstances.
Defilements are not permanent and there is no need to continue allowing these states—anger, greed or delusion—to run our lives.
Rumi gives us ways of meeting these defilements in his poem, The Guest House. (Do look it up on the internet if you don’t have a copy. I find it so helpful to refer to this poem often.)
Rumi encourages us to Invite these temporary guests, these negative states, in and listen to them. He tells us that each one bears a gift for us. And we are not to try to get rid of them, but to give them space to speak, and treat them kindly, as we would a guest in our home.
Each of these deeply rooted beliefs, or guests, was incorporated by us at one time because it made sense. And most of our beliefs came from the culture and conditions in which we were raised. They are not “who we are” but we have accepted what others said and did as the way life was. Being very young and innocent, we adopted them as our truth. We believed them.
But are these beliefs appropriate for this moment, at this time?
For instance, there was a period where people needed to band together for protection and support. Wild beasts roamed and could devour at any moment. Tribes gathered to help each other survive by learning the skills by either fighting these many and dire threats, or running from them.
The survivors “hard wired” the skills of fighting with the enemy, or running away from the danger, into their brains. Thus humanity survived and thrived.
For many eons this worked. However, we are now learning that war and aggression are too costly to continue if we are to survive. Also there is really no place left to run or hide.
The world has changed and we are now faced with a great truth, “Love or Perish,” as Rollo May’s groundbreaking book is titled.
Slowly we are now learning alternative methods. We are finding we don’t have to fight or flee, but that we need to learn to communicate and cooperate if we are going to survive.
The only place to begin is where the dangers are. How are we seeing things? We must engage the threats and fears (the defilements) that roam through our hearts and minds and cause us so much pain and suffering.
By not running away from that which threatens us we face each moment squarely, honestly, not denying our fear but finding a bridge that takes us into a new land—a place of satisfaction, joy and contentment.
The art of reeling in our projections, stopping the blame we cast on anyone or anything, but instead we sit down with each angry thought we find inside. We notice our greed and ask what is truly motivating us. Do we believe there isn’t enough and we must grab what we can?
We treat these beliefs as a guest in our home. We even provide them with meals and a place to feel safe.
As Lincoln said, “The best way to get rid of an enemy is to make him your friend.”
We learn to talk to the greedy, angry, frightened thoughts we find running in our own heads as we sit quietly and listen. Instead of trying to banish them we open to these thoughts and speak as we would to a person. We speak, then we allow the guest to speak. We listen and let the conversation continue back and forth.
The truth is that we are pure radiant mind. This is our real essence.
Our radiant beauty and brilliance is always here and can never be taken from us. Because it’s what we are!
But the temporary defilements of greed, anger and delusion can hide our real essence from us. They are just obstacles that challenge us to find new ways to think, speak and act. They are helping us to develop compassion and see more clearly!
Compassion needs healthy boundaries. It’s not compassionate to let someone walk all over us. We need to speak and be heard. We need to be our own advocate and not let others trample our feelings, or our home.
But what words will help?
Healing words don’t condemn. Helpful words reveal and make clear. These are words that come from our heart of nonviolence.
Nonviolent, skillful words don’t separate ourselves from others. They bridge.
Everyone living in this world deserves the space and the grace to find ways to work together.
As each of us works with the small issues, the little “wars” we have with our own family and friends, co-workers, neighbors, we light a spark that lightens the whole world.
I often hear, “But what about them?” “They need to take responsibility too!”
Yes, that’s true, but their thoughts and actions are not in our control. That’s not our job. We can’t make choices for others.
We begin with the defilements we find running amok in our own mind. This is where we live and have some control.
I find each time I make even a little progress by making peace in areas of conflict within me I feel lighter and happier.
Small really is beautiful.