Monday, August 2, 2010

Willing To Be Disturbed

Being Thankful for Life's Big and Small Irritants.

Last night, I dreamed I was removing a bee's stinger from my flesh. Slowly, carefully . . . Taking my own sweet time to deal with the irritant.

When I woke up, I was welcomed by a comment from Carole at ZenDotStudio Blog, including the following quote from her friend the Zen monk:

"be willing to be disturbed"

The monk's words stayed with me all morning, and transformed into a question: "How willing am I to be disturbed?",

and a series of considerations:

that life is a series of disturbances, some bigger than others, from minor itch, to bee sting, to pink slip, to pain in the neck, to cancer, to flat tire, to annoying character, . . . 

that the trick is to change one's attitude towards these unavoidable hassles, and to handle them with grace, understanding, and equanimity,

that these ripples on the surface of one's existence are to be welcomed, as a chance to  exercise one's  mindfulness and compassion muscles.

Of course, the day provided me with plenty of opportunities to test my good will.  Each time, feeling heat in the heart, and tightness in the throat and stomach, in reaction to the perceived irritant. Each time, turning towards the reactive unpleasantness as one would meet a grumpy old friend. Each time, growing more patient, and "willing to be disturbed".


  1. oh this is an interesting idea, and kinda confronting. There are times when I have been so upset with myself that I have sought disturbance... as a kind of self harm.
    But willing to be disturbed? So that a disturbance is my teacher? I am really not there yet.

  2. After spending the night in ER with my mom, this is so apropos... but maybe question should be phrased as how am I with disturbances... More than how willing am I to be disturbed, perhaps more apt is can I be at ease with whatever disturbances arise - to embrace them with grace, ease, compassion and equanimity - so that they are not seen as disturbances, but just what's arising in this moment. Can I embrace just this?

  3. It's funny how your posts always remind me of something I'm working on or dealing with. I have been working on updating my 'about' page to hopefully more clarify what I'm writing about. At any rate, I included a poem by Rumi that gets to your question above on willingness to be disturbed. I think every stranger that knocks on our door needs to be welcomed in a loving and compassionate way...the happiness, the anger, the sadness, the guilt, the proudness, the jealousy, the pain....they are all wonderful teachers!

  4. Oh! Yes, the famous Rumi poem. One of my favorites, and also one I have heard often, from various Dharma teachers:

    The Guest House

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    as an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still, treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
    meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whatever comes.
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.

  5. Bookbird, I am not sure I understand " I have been so upset with myself that I have sought disturbance... as a kind of self harm" Maybe you can explain further?

  6. Dharmadancer, I hope your mome is ok and send much metta your way!

    And yes, love your rephrase. I think the monk meant to provoke with his statement, and he certainly did!

  7. beautiful, something I've been working on a lot lately as my 6 yr old has entered a new phase (whining, talking back, the fun stuff)

    ...joining palms

  8. Oh! Kris, I remember those days . . . Parents are unsung heroes of patience, love, and equanimity, particularly here, in the US. I think the Western way of chid rearing makes it especially, and unnecessarily hard on parents.

    I offer much metta to you!

  9. Having lived through major disturbances like cancer and divorce and minor ones like loosing your wallet or keys and all other disturbances in between I reminded of something I learned from an old Lama once.
    All these disturbances are teachings from our inner or outer Guru /Teacher.The teachings(disturbances) will continue to come moment after moment.
    The question is: What am "I", the student, prepared and capable of learning from them

  10. You are so wise, 'triplegem'!

    That is the big difference isn't it? To endure disturbances as unwilling victim, or as enlightened student always seeking to learn and love better.

  11. Any microscopic grain wisdom that "I" possess has come through the generosity of Lama Karma Thinly and the 16th Karmapa.

  12. Even more auspicious timing - today's Pariyatti Daily Words of the Buddha was:

    Even when obstacles crowd in,
    the path to Nibbana can be won
    by those who establish mindfulness
    and bring to perfection equipoise.

    -Saṃyutta Nikāya 1.88

  13. Triplegem, thank you for the link - already added in comments section for 'Here They Come' post, listing Great Tibetan Buddhist Teachers in America'

  14. Bob, some would say it has to do with synchronicity . . .

  15. Marguerite, your timing is impeccable. I have been pondering this for quite some time. Is the annoyance actually quite benign as compared to the damage from upheaval, the pain, the anger, the negativity, anxiety, fear and so on that come all too often post the event. It can be just one word and we may never converse again. What a pity if we consider that it may be our last. Yes, all this is a teacher but only once the observer has observed and wisdom has arisen.

    For me, the reaction comes ever so fast and ever so strong that not always am I able to stop my self and let the energy disperse. Either way wisdom comes not long there after.

    With gratitude. May peace and wisdom reign within. Miro

  16. I have found it useful to displace the 'annoyed' thoughts with loving ones. It helps stop the annoyance somewhat. Most of the times . . . I may be annoyed still, but it gets dispersed in the loving kindness, and goes away, eventually. I started this practice after enough time of not liking the way unchecked annoyance felt inside, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Quite a selfish practice, really! :)