Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Toxic Place

One does not always have a choice. Sometimes, one ends up in a toxic environment, and the question arises of what to do from a mindful, compassionate place?

I asked my fellow tweeters:
other than need to exit, what is there to learn from being in a toxic environment?

And got the following answers:

@FullContactTMcG I learned compassion from sitting in my formerly toxic environment. For self and other... Then I left that relationship

@blkwriter the ability to hang in there if need be

@kabzj radical responsibility?

@JDProuty not much to learn in toxic environments but a good place to teach
                    toxic environments ~ toughest test of mindfulness ~ teach by example

@debraZERO I have found my voice, I don't want to suffer w/them. It's okay to be happy.

@Digitt one can learn the ability to transform negative energy into positive.
              just a state of mind. A shift in perception and standing in your power.

That's a lot of wisdom, right there.

For myself, I have found toxic environments to be useful up to a point. Useful tests of one's wisdom, kindness, compassion, and non reactivity. This fear I feel, whose is it? Of course, mine always, in the end. How about the anger? Same thing, a reaction from 'I' to difficult outer circumstances, and people. Intellectually, I could see that it was my choice to let the toxic brew seep in, or not. And at the same time, I found mindfulness can only go so far. At some point, one needs to leave. Some personalities, some situations are real pollutants for the mind, and the heart. 

“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” 
Mahatma Gandhi ~

Then the real work begins, of purifying one's mind from the unwholesome thoughts that may linger after one has left the actual place, or person. Owning one's propensity to dukkha, and investigating the effect on one's happiness. Replacing the anger with loving kindness. 'May he be at peace, may he be well.' And 'May I be at peace, may I be well.'


  1. the notion of an emotionally, ideologically and morally sanitized environment should start bells ringing for anyone that's has been meditating for a reasonable amount of time. just because you don't understand the dynamics doesn't mean it's toxic. Pathology has no place in Buddhism, and neither does fascism.

  2. I hear your point of view, and I respectfully beg to differ :) this of course based on my limited experience . . .

  3. When I think of childhood and my total inability to leave a toxic environment, the thing I realize to took from it was a determination to survive. And now I take that with me everywhere I go and know that I can indeed survive. What a wonderful strange gift.

    Thank you for this post.

  4. Yes, Mandy. As they say, what does not destroy you, makes you stronger . . .

    And, as the Buddha teaches, one of the wisest things we can do for ourselves is to surround ourselves with good spiritual friends.

  5. MMR,

    Your post brought to mind similar experiences in toxic environments.

    The awareness that another person wants to hurt us, and consistently looks for and enacts ways to do so is painful to anyone who welcomes all into our lives.

    In my experience over many years, when we open ourselves up to mindfulness, we also become vulnerable to toxic behaviors which previously we may have fended off through some toxic behaviors of our own.

    I've learned the hard and painful way that some people will spew poison no matter what. That, is deeply saddening. Life is so brief. And it hurts us too. And so, better to travel the road alone than with someone who is toxic.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. Often the toxicity is a result of unconsciousness. Hence the possible compassion. As my teacher Gil Fronsdal once said, you don't have to like the person but you can love them. And then, of course, exiting the scene, and ending the bad company as soon as possible . . .