Saturday, October 25, 2014

On Buddhism and Being a Bitch

By Mahlia Lindquist

Every morning I do a short meditation and set an intention for the day. The intention is always the same: Mahlia, don't be such a bitch.

I’ve been doing this on and off since I started attending workshops at the Shambhala Center in Boulder over ten years ago. The workshops all have similar themes, such as the value of mindfulness, acceptance, non-attachment, generosity, kindness, compassion, and contentment. 

The basic message is that the world is a better place when we all play nice. In Buddhist talk it’s called “non-aggression.” 

Another Buddhist tenet is Karma. According to the law of Karma what we think and do will come back to us in this or another life. Gawd, I hope not.

While skeptical about Karma, I agree wholeheartedly that non-aggression is a good thing. Unfortunately, it's a challenge for me because I’m pretty sure non-aggression precludes being bitchy.

Due to my natural disposition, combined with the ravages of menopause, I am no more able to go through an entire day without being a bitch than endure a day without coffee and wine. The only difference being that whilst I don't see the point to a caffeine/alcohol free day, I am curious what it feels like to be sweet for an entire 24 hour period. 

Yet, after ten long years of starting the morning with an intention of sweetness, I can’t get it right. I think my many years of failure has something to do with the fact that most humans are basically jerks.

(See? I can’t even manage to keep my blog posts bitch-free.)

Other than the human race, nothing makes me crankier than meditation retreats. The workshops are sort of like the gym, dull. However, in both cases, showing up takes the edge off my edge, and so I show up.

The theme of my first retreat was “Basic Goodness.” Like most Shambhala workshops, this one involved a lot of sitting and breathing. At some point over these weekends, the teacher meets with each student privately to see how things are going. But, the teachers don’t actually ask the question right off.  They beat around the bush, like one of those maddening Zen koans (you know, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”)

When it was my turn, an assistant led me into the “sanctuary”  (a fancy Buddhist term for the type of room common folk refer to as an “office.”) The teacher, Walter, motioned for me to sit down and then ... absolutely nothing. Nary a word. He just looked at me expectantly.

Conversation being one of my few core competencies, I normally help out in these ackward situations, but after sitting around all weekend I wasn’t in the mood. Besides, something about this dude’s attitude struck me as aggressive. 

And so I just stared back, my face a mask of blank but roiling with annoyance inside.  Each minute felt like an hour. 

During those eternal moments, my thoughts took a violent turn: Could I whack Walter over the head with the marble Buddha head on the desk and make my escape? If caught, would Shambhala notions of forgiveness mean Walter wouldn’t press charges?  Maybe it would knock some sense in to him so that he would act normal?

So far, my propensity for crazy bitchiness has been limited to ugly thoughts and tough talk, so I did not actually bitch slap Walter. I just stared back as my mind carried on like an episode of Criminal Minds.  

Suddenly, a voice outside the ones in my head: “So, how’s it going?”

Walter spoke!

Gratefully abandoning my criminal mind, I considered the question. The truth was that “it” wasn’t “going” anywhere. After sitting around and basically examining my belly button all weekend, I expected a wondrous epiphany. I had paid my $90 by god, and I wanted my enlightenment. 

I didn’t experience an epiphany or feel enlightened. I just felt bitchy. 

I tried to explain to Walter,  
Well, crossing the street today, a Hummer passed in front of me, and my first thought was, ‘asshole,’ so things are pretty much status quo from when I started sitting around and breathing at the Shambhala Center two days ago. In short, this whole weekend seems like a colossal waste of time and money.

A few more moments of our mute stand-off. Then Walter smiled broadly and said, “Yes, exactly! People who buy hummers are real assholes. Now we’re getting somewhere! " He looked at his watch, "Mahlia, it was lovely to chat with you, but our time is up. Will you please send in the next student?”

What in the hell Walter was talking about? Was he talking about buddhism, karma and/or being a bitch? I still don't know.

What I do know, is that on the off chance that Karma is a thing, for me it is going to be a bitch. Just to cover my bases, tomorrow my sincere intention is not to be such a bitch.

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