autotelic, autistic, assonance-hole©.

Advice from the heart – do not envy qualities, honor them

Today’s Advice from the Heart:

Do not be jealous of others’ good qualities, but out of admiration adopt them yourself.

Do not look for faults in others, but look for faults in yourself, and purge them like bad blood.

Do not contemplate your own good qualities, but contemplate the good qualities of others, and respect everyone as a servant would.

This piece of advice is not common in our competitive, western culture. More often than not, seeing someone succeed is a thorn that pricks us to try and surpass them. Not to become as good, not to emulate, not to honor or respect the accomplishment, but to find the way to exceed it, put the nose of the other into the dust, pass them and then, gloat and beat one’s chest and cry, “Look at me! I am BETTER…. I am THE BEST!”

This habitual insistence upon competition often results in very odd behavior. I have experienced it most often as the active motivation and intent toward figuring out how to ‘pull the rug’ from under someone — a willingness to actively abuse or mistreat others in the name of insuring they cannot move past or succeed until or unless one “allows” or “permits” it — the abuse of access and, in some cases, authority to both maintain one’s ‘status’ while insuring any perceived ‘competition’ is rendering unable to progress or succeed.

It is a sad state of being, all the moreso to consider how unhappy one must be to engage in it to try and shore up things like self-loathing or insecurity.

But isn’t it funny, how easy it is for me to point out what I perceive as ‘these flaws’? Is this not the same behavior? Something that, eventually, perhaps even quickly, results in the same behavior being decried?

It is an easy thing to point at flaws or faults in others. Very easy to blame “them” for how they “made you” react. Oh so convenient to feel safe in your choices and actions because if “they” hadn’t done X, you wouldn’t have “had to” do Y, right?

Ultimately, it’s all the same. The fault or flaw perceived is never really the issue. The issue is what one chooses to DO or NOT DO in reaction to it. One does not have to allow perceptions of fault or flaw to cause reaction. One could choose to feel no more pressure in relation to it than taking the breath required to pause and then, exhale the troubled feeling(s) as easily as exhaling the breath.

But wait! We’re RIGHT, damn it! We are JUSTIFIED! They have done WRONG and it MUST be addressed, set forth and shamed, corrected!

I’m laughing.

I’m laughing because I know that feeling. I have it more than I feel I should. Perhaps you do, too, sometimes. The sense of ‘what ought to be’ or ‘how it should be’ is very difficult to challenge when it rises. Very, very difficult to ignore. Our entire system of culture and most of our most cherished societal beliefs tell us that these things must be fought that it is our place to monitor and enforce… well… any number of things, eh?

The social contract.

The law.

The religion.

The rules.

What’s right.

What’s good.

What’s proper.

What’s correct.

Yet, honestly, who are we to have the right? To be so sure OUR perspective or OUR judgment is infallible, perfected, unassailable? What if the person who so offended thinks and feels the same way about you? Equally righteous, justified, correct, supported by whichever system may be brought to bear as “evidence” of the entitlement to pronounce any of it, all of it, upon you!

The classic Buddhist example to demonstrate the underlying broken premise is a story of a man in a boat:

One day there was a man out for a leisurely afternoon on his sailboat. He is enjoying the day when he sees a boat on the horizon. He notices it is getting closer and closer. He also notices that it seems to be on a direct course to collide with his boat. He begins by waving, telling the other boat captain to “turn aside.” But it is not use, the boat continues on a direct course toward his boat. As the boat nears he starts yelling and waving and jumping up and down. All to no avail, because the boat finally rams his boat, damaging it. Now he is really angry, until he looks in the other boat and realizes there is no one on boat. It is a boat that has been adrift. There is no one to get angry with – no one to blame.

Ultimately, it is not that “you” “made” “me” angry, it is that I allowed myself to respond angrily to you. This would not be possible if there weren’t some concept of “me” that I believe is naturally entitled to concession from or by you. This would not be possible if I understood your innate possession of quality and both recognized and acknowledged it as equal…. truly equal.

This is, I think, why this piece of advice instructs to keep one’s mind on the truth of all beings — that each of us have quality. It is also why it instructs not to focus on the faults or flaws of others but, instead, focus on our own. We can do nothing for the faults or flaws of others. We can only change, help, or improve ourselves.

The last sentence of this piece of advice from the heart advises that we focus on the good qualities of others, rather than upon our own. In context, I think this is intended to remind us that the only way we’re ever really going to manage controlling our inner issues is to remember that we’re all equal in humanity. It’s hard to be angry with someone when you are as certain they meant well as you would mean well to someone. It is impossible to feel hatred to someone you know is as eager to do their best as you are.

The last sentence also advises to take the mindset of a servant to others. This is, I think, particularly hard bordering on impossible for most of us. I manage it on rare occasion myself. All too rare, really. I try, but it’s hard because we don’t really have a strong role model for servitude in this country. It has very terrible connotations. The eastern connotation is more of willing help to others rather than forced or dominated service.

When I think about this, I tend to liken it to doing something for a friend or loved one that I know is going to make them feel cared for, special, or happy. I serve their needs and interests because making them feel happy is good and helpful. I want to do nice things for them. I feel they deserve nice things. This…. this is the mindset I think this piece of advice seeks for us to figure out and apply to the world at large.

I manage it sometimes. I call it the ‘just because’ and that’s really all it is — doing something kind, helpful, good, or caring for another human being JUST BECAUSE I can.

Imagine for a moment what kind of world it would be if we could do this regularly.

I find this piece of advice helpful for many reasons and most of them have to do with reminding me that my best choice of focus is myself, my best choice toward others is to honor their qualities, and my best choice when faced with the chance to be angry or kind is always, always to be kind.

For someone like me, who makes mistakes much more often than merriment in these areas, this piece of advice from the heart is a comforting reminder of how to manage better and why it matters that I continue striving to do so.