Revenge Fantasies

For a couple of days now, after aggressive communications from the other side, I’ve been annoyed with myself because
various revenge scenarios keep arising before my mind’s eye—ways I will subtly
let drop on huge forums that Daniel destroyed all our work, 350 manuscript pages, just in order to
deny me a cover credit he had promised me in a written agreement and had actually had implemented.

Vengeance is destructive–even when it is vengeance for vengeance. I don’t want to
be having these thoughts, but I’m really, really pissed at him. Really. He and his friend-lawyer went so low, lying, and insinuating that I’m a stalker–that I can’t really
feel any of that as “grab.” It is just too stupid to be effective that way.

But what I do feel is that he would rather smite me than preserve the best version of his own book. Not once during this
dispute has he so much as mentioned all the practitioners he was supposedly
making this edition for.

What to Do with Anger

I started poking around the Web to find some dharma advice for working with
anger. Nothing much spoke to me. Pema Chodren urged patience, waiting before
taking action to reduce commission of harm. Is harm always wrong? Seriously. I
mean what about Kane? Sometimes he had to kick ass.

I did find a video with a teaching that nuanced the precept against
divisive speech. It was pointed out that there is a duty to the community to
call teachers out for their wrongdoings.

Tonglen Compassion Practice

Tonight I did an intense practice, beginning with Tonglen regarding myself and loved ones on death
bed, then hearing, then awareness of hearing, then emptiness of time, then
dropping awareness into the heart, then ocean-and-waves, and then repeating
tonglen from this very subtle level of mind and seeing how tonglen differed
from the first go-round.

I wept at times, but the tonglen for all beings at the
end was mightily healing.

What am I learning ethically? It is
hard to see the pure nature of one who has deliberately caused me and himself so much suffering in the face of knowing better, of being a supposed dharma teacher. I am
disillusioned. And he is not what he purports to be.

Dream of Floating above Red Pavers

Recently I dreamed I was walking and
looking down at red pavers beneath me. Then I looked up and to the right, down a length of
sidewalk, and saw Daniel entering his little workout place. He tried to guilt me back in August by saying he had to give up his vacations, wardrobe budget, and gym membership to pay for the replacement editor. 

I suddenly realized that I
was dreaming and that I could float a few inches above the pavers rather than walk. I realized, too, that I had powers and could follow him into the gym and even know what he was thinking, without my being seen. But
as I approached the door, I remembered all the grief he has caused me and
recoiled. I shouted aloud, “Fuck him!” And I promptly turned and floated like a grand dame of a magnificent ghost in the opposite
direction, with a joyous expansive freedom that woke me in my bed and to this body.

“Letting Go” as a Practice Sand Trap

Last night while sitting for samatha (calm-abiding, concentration) breath meditation, I felt blockages catch up the breath at the level of the throat and chest. My mind was swimming, and I noticed that certain petty
stories obscuring energy arose and that my mind chased after the stories for long whiles, indulging in them. Then I remembered that I was intending to focus on and enjoy the calming breath, that I should “let go” of anger by letting go of the stupid, infuriating stories.

Effort as Practice Trap

However, I then realized deeply, because as personal experience, something I have only read here and there before now: I cannot “let go” of anger simply by foisting this agenda for release on the actual inner situation I, through karmic propensities, find myself in. In other words, intending to let go is trying to make something different from “what is” happen. It is aversion to here and now.

Consequently, what I ended up intentionally letting go of during this sit was the injunction to “let go” of anger and return full focus to the calming comfort of the breath. Instead, I remembered something more I had read in Thanissaro Bhikkhu about having to master states of mind before letting go of them. Although I did cease chasing after the crazymaking stories, I invited the anger itself in for the duration of the sit. I observed what it was doing to snag my breath in the throat and chest. Mindful of this discomfort, I realized through adherence to direct experience that anger is an inside con job.

Anger as an Abandonment Recital

Truly, whoever I’m angry at isn’t the object; I myself am the object of all that red steam. If I crack that con fount open and admit some clearer light, anger is seen to be really a frightening degree of sadness — a horror of abandonment.

Anger as Best Door to Insight

Anger is never itself, you see. It is a sham emotion, a delusion the mind fabricates and then 100% believes in only because being angry at x seems  less devastating than feeling hurt, left out, betrayed, or rejected by x. Paradoxically, in this sense, anger is important to feel and not to simply “let go” of, as if that were even possible–it is important to invite it to stay the night within a framework of Right View. It is in fact the best emotion to begin insight practice with, because it is, I further realized, the prototype for all emotion-delusions that the mind fabricates.

Interestingly, when I examined my anger this way and knew it intimately, “letting go” was the natural result, at least for the rest of the sit. Only – it wasn’t really “letting go,” which still implies some fiat on my part. 

Ajahn Chah on Separating Mind from Feeling

After I opened my eyes and rose from the floor, I started reading the collected works of Ajahn Chah, who happened to address this very realization in the passage I randomly opened to:

“When we say the Buddha told us to separate the mind from the feeling, he didn’t literally mean to throw them to different places. He meant that the mind must know happiness and know unhappiness. When sitting in samadhi, for example, and peace fills the mind, happiness comes but it doesn’t reach us, unhappiness comes but doesn’t reach us. This is how one separates the feeling from the mind. We can compare it to oil and water in a bottle. They don’t combine. Even if you try to mix them, the oil remains oil and the water remains water, because they are of different density.” 

When you really thoroughly know a thought-fabrication, in other words, you automatically experience the mind as separate from it:  “We say that we separate mind and feeling in this way but in fact they are by nature already separate. Our realization is simply to know this natural separateness according to reality. When we say they are not separated it’s because we’re clinging to them through ignorance of the
truth.” This is why we must meditate — to replace delusion with such insight.

Samatha-Vipassana as One Practice

Another realization during this sit was that Thanissaro is correct: samatha (calming) and vipassana (insight) meditations are not actually two separate types of meditation; instead, there is more properly samatha-vipassana, where stillness gives rise to discernment, and discernment gives rise to stillness (they help each other along by turns). I’m not at all advanced in samatha, so it was astonishing to have experienced vipassana at all, which is often taught as attainable only after stability in samatha. Thanissaro is always stressing that meditation requires individual experimentation in using one branch as a crutch for propelling the other forward; now I understand — through experience — what he means!

Language as Nonconstative Performance at Best

Another paradox ripening as I write is that none of this “stuff” can be satisfactorily reduced to language and transmitted to others — especially by a beginner, like me. The evidence for what I’m speaking of is existential, experiential; where there is no effort to meditate, there will be absolutely no apprehension of the ways in which beings fabricate delusion and believe that delusion is inescapable “reality.” Nevertheless, I was helped early on and am still helped by those who have taken the trouble to try to reduce meditative insights to words. They point to a mere hint; I walk on now beyond that trailhead alone.

Postscript 3 Years Later

[A full 3 years and several awakenings after having written the above entry, it is interesting to note that I’m now cycling back around to work, at a deeper level, on the same obscuration – anger as fear. I’m doing so through some advanced Chöd-like tantric practices and work on first and third chakras. As my teacher says, “The victim and the perpetrator are bound together, and if you identify with being the victim and aren’t willing to feel what it is like to be the perpetrator, then you won’t free up the clear vajra energy underneath anger.” These more current practices are documented in my current journal, Dharma by Daylight.

Anger as a Type of Planning

During this sit, my legs were falling asleep. I decided not to put up with it, even though during my last sit i Had no numbness. I moved my leg. 

Just as I was getting into the whole body breathing sponge thing, my son banged on the door and wouldn’t leave. He seemed to be doing this on purpose and Kurt joined in. Anger arose and was difficult to calm. 

I decided to observe the sensations of anger. This was also hard. All I noticed was that anger is a type of planning.

When I calmed down, I thought I was at most halfway through. Then the bell sounded. I didn’t jump (for once) but was nonetheless shocked. Usually I am waiting for the bell and yet startle when it sounds; this situation was vice-versa..