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Sunday, December 19, 2010

either, the world isn't mean and you aren't

[photo credit: Steven Harper]

today i attended a dharma talk at green gulch zen center.
norman fischer was the speaker.

he spoke for maybe an hour.

after a short break for tea and muffins, many returned to the Zendo (meditation hall) for Q + A.

i had the chance to ask the following question:

"when people are mean, my natural inclination is to be mean back to them...because i feel if i don't, i am only encouraging their meanness. and yet, i also know that my intention is to live life with a sense of kindness and mindfulness and compassion for everyone, and so i feel conflicted. and i don't know what to do."

best i can recall, here is some of what he said in response.

norman fischer:

a number of years ago i made the resolution to no longer act on aggression. i might feel and experience aggression--i can't control that; but i made the resolution to no longer act on it.

when people treat others meanly, they usually believe that the world is a mean place. and so they believe they must use their weapon of meanness to survive. and, thus, when you return their meanness, you teach them that, yes, they were right, the world is mean.

when we are treated meanly, we can choose to see what is really happening: someone's heart is broken. what we think of as meanness is really, at root, a broken heart, someone who believes that they must mistreat others before they are mistreated themselves.

and i think what you will find is that if you want to stop people from being mean, you should try and show them kindness. because, as mentioned, such a person is being mean out of the expectation that the world and the people in it are mean. what you can do is show that the world isn't mean. that you aren't mean. you can show this person that the world is kind. that you are kind. and in this way, you can help to heal a broken heart.

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