فصل 3کتاب: خرد تسلط بر خشم / فصل 4
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THE LANGUAGE OF TRUE LOVE
A Peace Talk
We practice with our family, we practice with our spiritual friends because alone we cannot succeed easily. We need allies.
In the past, we were allied in making each other suffer more, allied in the escalation of anger. Now we want to be allied in taking good care of our sorrow, our anger, and our frustration.
We want to negotiate a strategy for peace.
Start a peace talk with your beloved one: “Darling, in the past we have made each other suffer so much. Both of us were victims of our anger.We made a hell for each other.Now, Iwant to change. Iwant us to become allies, so thatwe can protect each other, practice together, and transformour anger together. Let us build a better life from now on, based on the practice of mindfulness. Darling, I need your help. I need your support. I need your collaboration. I cannot succeed without you.”You have to say these words to your partner, your son, your daughter— it’s time to do it.This is awakening.This is love.
You may attain some enlightenment just by listening to five minutes of a dharma talk. But you have to maintain that enlightenment in your daily life, so that you can bring it home and begin to apply it to your daily life. As enlightenment grows in you, confusion and ignorance will have to withdraw.
It will not only influence your thinking, but also your body and your way of living. So it is very important to go to your partner, to your beloved one, and negotiate a strategy of peace, a strategy of consuming, a strategy of protection. You have to bring the best of yourself: your talent, your skillfulness, everything, in order to succeed at this negotiation table so that you will no longer make each other suffer. You want to begin anew, you want to transform yourself. It’s up to you to convince the other person.
There is a young American who did not speak with his father for five years. Conversation was entirely impossible. One day he came in contact with the dharma, and it had a deep impact on him. He wanted to begin anew, to change his life. So he decided to become a monk. With great eagerness to learn, he stayed with the Plum Village sangha for three or four months, and he proved he was capable of becoming a monk. From the day he came to our center, he practiced mindful consumption, walking meditation, sitting meditation, participating in all the activities of the sangha.
He did not expect anything from his father, he just began with himself. Thanks to that kind of living, making peace with himself, he was able to write his father every week. Not expecting an answer at all, he wrote to his father about his practice, the small joys he felt every day. Six months later, he picked up the phone, and breathed in and out mindfully. This helped him to stay calm. He dialed the number, and his father answered. His father knew that he had become a monk, and he was very angry about that. So the first thing he said was, “Are you still with that group? Are you still a monk?
What is your future?” The young man replied, “Dad, my greatest concern now is how to establish a good relationship between us. That would make me very happy. It is the most important thing to me. To be able to communicate with you again, to be able to be close again, that is my only concern. It is more important than anything, including the future.” His father kept silent, for a long time. The young monk just continued to follow his breathing. Finally the father said, “Okay, I accept that. That is important for me, too.” So anger was not the only thing his father felt for his son. In many letters, the young man had written about beautiful things that had nourished the positive elements in his father. From that day on, his father called him every week. Communication has been reestablished, and the happiness of both father and son has now become a reality.
Peace Begins with You
Before we can make deep changes in our lives, we have to look into our diet, our way of consuming. We have to live in such a way that we stop consuming the things that poison us and intoxicate us. Then, we will have the strength to allow the best in us to arise, and we will no longer be victims of anger, of frustration.
Everything is possible when the door of communication is open. So we must invest ourselves in the practice of opening up and restoring communication. You have to express your willingness, your desire to make peace with the other person. Ask him to support you. Tell him, “Communication between us is the most important thing to me. Our relationship is the most precious thing, nothing is more important.” Make it clear and ask for support.
You have to start negotiating a strategy. No matter how much the other person can do, you have to do all that you are capable of doing yourself. You must give one hundred percent of yourself. Whatever you can do for yourself, you do for him, or for her. Don’t wait. Don’t put forth conditions, saying, “If you don’t make an effort to reconcile, then I won’t either.” This will not work. Peace, reconciliation, and happiness begin with you.
It is wrong to think that if the other person does not change or improve, then nothing can be improved. There are always ways to create more joy, peace, and harmony, and you have access to them. The way you walk, the way you breathe, the way you smile, the way you react, all of this is very important.
You must begin with this. There are many ways to communicate, and the best way is to show that you no longer feel any anger or condemnation. You show that you understand and accept the other person.
You communicate this not only by your words, but also by your way of being—with your eyes full of compassion and your actions full of tenderness. The fact that you are fresh and pleasant to be around already changes a lot. No one can resist coming close to you. You become a tree with a cool shade, a stream of cool water. Both people and animals will want to come near you because your presence is refreshing and enjoyable. When you begin with yourself, you will be able to restore communication, and the other person will change naturally.
We tell our beloved one, “My darling, in the past we have made each other suffer so much, because neither of us was capable of handling our anger. Now we have to work out a strategy for taking good care of our anger.”
The dharma can remove the heat of anger, and the fever of suffering. It is a wisdom that can bring joy and peace in the here and the now. Our strategy for peace and reconciliation should be based on this.
Whenever the energy of anger comes up, we often want to express it to punish the person whom we believe to be the source of our suffering. This is the habit energy in us. When we suffer, we always blame the other person for having made us suffer. We do not realize that anger is, first of all, our business.
We are primarily responsible for our anger, but we believe very naively that if we can say something or do something to punish the other person, we will suffer less. This kind of belief should be uprooted. Because whatever you do or say in a state of anger will only cause more damage in the relationship. Instead, we should try not to do anything or say anything when we are angry.
When you say something really unkind, when you do something in retaliation, your anger increases. You make the other person suffer, and he will try hard to say or do something back to get relief from his suffering. That is how the conflict escalates. This has happened so many times in the past. You are both very familiar with the escalation of anger, of suffering, and yet you have not learned anything from it.
Trying to punish the other person is only going to make the situation worse. Punishing the other person is self-punishment. That is true in every circumstance. Every time the United States Army tries to punish Iraq, not only does Iraq suffer, but the U.S. also suffers. Every time Iraq tries to punish the U.S., the U.S. suffers, but Iraq also suffers. The same is true everywhere; between the Israeli and Palestinian, between the Muslim and Hindu, between you and the other person. It has always been like that. So let us wake up; let us be aware that punishing the other is not an intelligent strategy. Both you and the other person are intelligent. You can use your intelligence.
You must come together and agree on a strategy for taking care of your anger. You both know that trying to punish each other is not wise. So promise each other that every time you get angry, you will not say or do anything out of anger. Instead, you will take care of your anger by going back to yourselves—practicing mindful breathing and mindful walking.
Take advantage of the moments when you are happy together to sign the contract, your peace treaty, a treaty of true love. Your peace treaty should be written and signed entirely on the basis of love, not like a peace treaty signed by political parties. They base their treaties only on national selfinterest.
They are still full of a lot of suspicion and anger. But your peace treaty must be purely a love treaty.
The Buddha never advised us to suppress our anger. He taught us to go back to ourselves and take good care of it.
When something is physically wrong with us, in our intestines, our stomach, or our liver, we have to stop and take good care of them. We do some massage, we use a hot-water bottle, we do everything possible in order to take care of them.
Just like our organs, our anger is part of us. When we are angry, we have to go back to ourselves and take good care of our anger. We cannot say, “Go away anger, you have to go away. I don’t want you.”When you have a stomachache, you don’t say, “I don’t want you stomach, go away.” No, you take care of it. In the same way, we have to embrace and take good care of our anger. We recognize it as it is, embrace it, and smile. The energy that helps us do these things is mindfulness, mindfulness of walking and mindfulness of breathing.
Happiness Is Not an Individual Matter
This does not mean that you have to hide your anger. You have to let the other person know that you are angry and that you suffer. This is very important. When you get angry with someone, please don’t pretend that you are not angry. Don’t pretend that you don’t suffer. If the other person is dear to you, then you have to confess that you are angry, and that you suffer. Tell him or her in a calm way.
In true love, there is no pride. You cannot pretend that you don’t suffer. You cannot pretend that you are not angry.
This kind of denial is based on pride. “Angry? Me? Why should I be angry? I’m okay.” But, in fact, you are not okay.
You are in hell. Anger is burning you up, and you must tell your partner, your son, your daughter. Our tendency is to say, “I don’t need you to be happy! I can be on my own!”This is a betrayal of our initial vow to share everything.
In the beginning you told each other, “I cannot live without you. My happiness depends on you.”You made declarations like that. But when you are angry, you say the opposite: “I don’t need you! Don’t come near me! Don’t touch me!”You prefer to go into your room and lock the door. You try your best to demonstrate that you don’t need the other person.
This is a very human, very ordinary tendency. But this is not wisdom. Happiness is not an individual matter. If one of you is not happy, it will be impossible for the other person to be happy.
1 . “DARLING, I AM ANGRY. I SUFFER .”
To say, “Darling, I love you,” is good, it is important. It is natural that we share our joy and good feelings with our beloved one. But you also have to let the other person know when you suffer, when you are angry with him or her. You have to express what you feel. You have the right. This is true love.
“Darling, I am angry at you. I suffer.”Try your best to say it peacefully. There may be some sadness in your voice, that’s fine. Just don’t say something to punish or to blame. “Darling, I am angry. I suffer, and I need you to know it.”This is the language of love, because you have vowed to support each other, as partners, or as husband and wife. Father and son, mother and daughter are also a couple, so even if the other person is your child or your parent, you must still speak out.
You have the duty to tell him or her when you suffer.
When you are happy, share your happiness, with her, with him. When you suffer, tell your beloved one about your suffering.
Even if you think your anger was created by him or her, you still have to keep your commitment. Tell him or her calmly. Use loving speech. This is the only condition.
You must do this as soon as possible. You should not keep your anger, your suffering to yourself for more than twenty-four hours. Otherwise, it becomes too much. It can poison you. This would prove that your love, your trust for him or her is very weak. So you have to tell him or her about your suffering, your anger as soon as you can. Twenty-four hours is the deadline.
You may feel you are not capable of telling him or her right away because you are not yet calm. You are still very angry. So practice mindful breathing and walking outdoors.
Then when you feel calm and ready to share, you speak. But if the deadline comes close, and you are not yet calm, then you have to write it down. Write a Peace Note, a peace message.
Deliver the letter to her and make sure she gets it before twenty-four hours have passed. This is very important. Each of you has to make the promise to act in this way when you get angry at each other. Otherwise you are not respecting the terms of your peace treaty.
2 . “I AM DOING MY BEST.”
If you are committed to changing things, you can go further.
You can add another sentence when you let the other person know that you suffer. You can add, “I’m doing my best.”This means you refrain from acting out of anger. It means that you are practicing mindful breathing and mindful walking in order to embrace your anger with mindfulness. You are practicing according to the teaching. Don’t say, “I am doing my best” unless you practice. When you are angry, you know how to practice, so you have the right to say, “I am doing my best.”That will inspire confidence and respect in the other person. “I am doing my best” means you are living up to your commitment to go home to yourself and take good care of your anger.
When you are angry, your anger is your baby and you have to look after it. It is like when your stomach is upset, you have to go back to yourself and embrace your stomach. Your stomach is your baby at that moment. Our stomach is a physical formation, a physiological formation, and our anger is a mental formation. We must take care of our anger in the same way we take care of our stomach or kidneys. You cannot say, “Anger, go away, you don’t belong to me.” So when you say, “I am doing my best,” it is because you are embracing and taking good care of your anger. You are practicing mindful breathing and walking to release the energy of anger and transform it into positive energy.
While embracing your anger, you practice looking deeply to see the nature of your anger because you know that you may be the victim of a wrong perception. You may have misunderstood what you heard and what you saw. You may have a wrong idea of what had been said, what had been done.
Your anger is born from such ignorance and wrong perceptions.
When you say “I am doing my best,” you are aware that in the past you have gotten angry many times because of your wrong perception of what was going on. So now you are very careful. You remember that you should not be so sure that you are the victim of the other person’s wrongdoing, the victim of the other person’s words. You yourself may have created the hell inside you.
3 . “PLEASE HELP ME.”
The third sentence follows naturally, “Please help me. Darling, I need your help.” That is the language of true love.
When you get angry with the other person, you have the tendency to say the opposite—“Don’t touch me! I don’t need you. I can manage very well without you!” But you have made the commitment to take good care of each other. So it’s very natural that when you suffer, although you know how to practice, you still need the other person to help you in your practice. “Darling, I need your help. Please do help me.” If you are capable of writing or saying these three sentences, you are capable of true love. You are using the authentic language of love. “Darling, I suffer, and I want you to know it. Darling, I am doing my best. I’m trying not to blame anyone else, including you. Since we are so close to each other, since we have made a commitment to each other, I feel that I need your support and your help to get out of this state of suffering, of anger.” Using the three sentences to communicate with the other person can quickly reassure and relieve him or her. The way you handle your anger will inspire a lot of confidence and respect in the other person, and in yourself.
This is not very difficult to do.
Transforming Anger Together
If I were the other person, and you shared these three sentences with me, I would see that you are very faithful to me, that you really have true love for me. Not only when you’re happy do you share your happiness, but when you suffer, you also share your suffering. When you tell me you are doing your best, I have confidence and I respect you because you are a real practitioner. You are faithful to what you have learned, the teachings and your community of practice. When you practice these three sentences, you are embracing your teacher and your sangha in your heart.
Because you are doing your best, I end up doing my best.
I go back to myself and practice. In order to be worthy of you, I have to look deeply, and also do my best. I have to ask myself, “What did I say, what did I do to have made her or him suffer like that? Why did I do that?” Just listening to you, just reading the Peace Note you gave me, I can recover myself.
The dharma, after having touched you, is now beginning to touch me, and it is my turn to be inhabited by the energy of mindfulness.
So when the other person receives your message, a message communicated by loving speech, he will be inspired by your love, by your language, and by your practice. A lot of awakening and respect is born in him when the message has gotten across. He will be willing to go back to himself and reconsider whether he has done or said anything that has made you suffer. In this way you have conveyed to him your practice. He will see that you are doing your best. And in order to respond to that, he also will want to do his best. He will say silently to himself: “Darling, I am also doing my best.”
This is wonderful; both of you are practicing. The dharma has inhabited both of you. The Buddha is alive in each of you. There is no danger anymore. You have come back to yourself, practicing looking deeply in order to truly understand the situation. If during this time, one of you experiences an insight into what is really going on, then you have to tell the other person right away what you have discovered.
Perhaps you become aware that you became angry because of a wrong perception. When you have such an insight, you have to tell the other person right away. You must let her know that you are sorry that you got angry for nothing. She did not do anything wrong at all. You got angry because you misunderstood the situation. Telephone her, fax her, e-mail her, because she is still very concerned about your suffering.
This will give her relief right away.
In looking back, the other person may also realize that she has said or done something out of irritation or because of a wrong perception. She regrets what she has said or done to you, and so she also has to share her insight. “Darling, the other day, I was not very mindful. I said something incorrect.
I had a misperception. I did something unkind, and I see it was because I was not skillful enough. I did not mean to make you suffer. So I apologize and I promise that next time, I’ll be more skillful, more mindful.”When you get this message, you stop suffering, and in your heart, you feel a lot of respect for the other person. Now, the other person is a copractitioner.
Your mutual respect for each other continues to grow, and respect is the foundation of true love.
The Special Guest
In the Vietnamese tradition, husband and wife are expected to treat each other like a guest. You really respect each other.
When you change your clothes, you don’t change in front of each other. You behave with reverence. If respect for the other person is no longer there, true love cannot continue for long.
Respecting each other, treating each other as a guest, is traditional in Asian society. I believe this attitude existed in the West also, at least in old times. Without such mutual respect, love cannot last for a long time. Anger and other negative energies will begin to dominate.
In the wedding ceremonies performed in Plum Village, our retreat center in France, the couple bows to each other, to show their respect. This is because each person has the Buddha nature within—the capacity to be enlightened, to develop great compassion and great understanding. When you bow to your partner with respect, you notice your love. If you no longer have any respect for the other person, love is dead. This is why we have to be very careful to nourish and sustain our mutual respect.
Using these three sentences of true love, looking deeply to acknowledge our responsibility in the conflict, is a very concrete way to express our respect and nourish our love. Do not underestimate the three sentences of true love.
Pebble in Your Pocket
Every molecule of these three sentences consists entirely of true love. Love can handle anything. You may like to write these three sentences down on a piece of paper the size of a credit card and slip it into your wallet. Revere that sheet of paper as something that can save you because it will remind you of your commitment to each other.
Some of us keep a pebble in our pocket, a beautiful pebble we picked up in the front yard. We washed it very carefully and always carry it with us. Every time we put our hands in our pocket, we touch the small pebble, and hold it gently. We practice mindful breathing and we feel very peaceful. When anger arises, the pebble becomes the dharma. It reminds us of our three sentences. Just holding the pebble, breathing in and out calmly and smiling, can help you tremendously. It sounds a little bit childish, but this practice is very useful. When you are in school, at work, or out shopping, you have no reminders to bring you back to yourself. So the little pebble in your pocket serves as your teacher, as your fellow practitioner— it is a bell of mindfulness, allowing you to pause and return to your breathing.
Many people invoke the name of Jesus or Buddha Amitabha with a rosary. The pebble is a kind of rosary, a reminder that your teacher is always with you, your dharma brothers and sisters are always with you. It will help you to go back to your breathing, allow love to be born in you, and keep that love in you alive. It can help keep enlightenment alive in you.
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