My story: no-harm as second language

I didn’t ask too many questions for the first 30 years of my life. It’s been mostly about action and I have rather enjoyed the emotional thrill that went with it. My purely instrumental interest in psychology and bordering disciplines served my career and personal pursuits. However, I did lack adequate answers to why things happen in our lives. Especially, why some of them happen to me.

10,000 hours 

Surfing instructors or tai chi masters quote at least 5 years of daily practice to yield any real results. Vajrayana Buddhism ngondro requires 100,000 prostrations (along with other preliminary practices) just to prepare the practitioner for the path. Anything worth pursuing requires considerable investment before achieving even moderate levels of proficiency. 

Trial and error

Like most of us, I tried to make sense of various philosophies, secular psychology schools, spiritual and religious traditions, — to resolve my real-life emotional struggles. Indeed I had a number of those. Extreme enthusiasm easily switched to anger, and if unsuccessful to depression. Abundant business, family and personal contexts for spiritual practices test drives. I spent years doing yoga, attending Buddhist teachings (incl. by HH The 14th Dalai Lama), sifting through psychological studies, visiting seminars and personal counsellings, doing pilgrimages, retreats, etc.

The Buddhist worldview

The Buddhist approach to suffering was answering the most complex questions I had. But despite its profound logic and the trustworthiness of the living Teachers, I could only subdue my destructive reactions for the brief periods of immersing into meditation, scriptures or retreats. Important real-life events consistently triggered destructive emotional responses, again.

This and the words of HH the 14th Dalai Lama, “I always recommend that it’s best to keep the religion you were born into” have kept me from officially taking refuge in one of the Buddhist traditions. Despite my nominal attitude, I was already Christened.

Dealing with my specific cultural and linguistic layer

The fact I had to accept and make the best use of: I was born into Christianity, the western culture. My thoughts, reactions, relationships between “me” and all objects, every concept I had, — were based on language and culture that evolved around Christian notions. Pride, jealousy, love, forgiveness… However, I rejected the obvious choice of instruments that spoke the same language. The problems I had were Christian dogmas/their misinterpretations and history of misdeeds of its members.

It is the depth of the Buddhist worldview that helped me resolve both:

  1. Understand the provisional nature of religious concepts as means to an end vs. being conveniently referred to as dogmas, their meaning and how to apply them to resolve my current issues,
  2. Stop using imperfections of other people as an excuse to do nothing about my own problems (resorting to an imitation of activity/exotic solutions with a better public image).

Christian prayers, application of concepts of love, acceptance, and forgiveness helped me gain the initial momentum of my emotional education practice.

Teachers

One of the fruits of the growing awareness is understanding that everyone we interact with is the external mirror of ourselves. Obviously, some mirrors are clearer than the others, — they have no mutually shared problems to resonate with ours and skew the message. Hence any interaction with such people is a gift. Much more so if they are willing to counsel.

I was also convinced I could only be taught how to swim by someone who could do it themselves. A “helper” who was drowning would only sink me deeper.

Ongoing leaps of faith

In the course of the past 10 years, I had plenty of situations when my destructive tendencies were overwhelming me. The lifeline that allowed me to emerge each time was the idea of no-harm.

How could I trust any “ironclad” logic if it felt the same way as my destructive emotions? The psychological discomfort, pain, feeling of “unhappiness” indicated my mind was having a hidden agenda, and it harmed other people, the world and myself.

It did take considerable leaps of faith each time: sticking to no-harm when “reason” clearly insisted on the opposite. Keeping pushing against the wind of strong emotions until sufficient momentum is gained and a balanced state of mind is restored.

“No-harm”, a second language in progress

Ecological worldview is a means to communicate the beauty from the inside to the outside world. Perceive and handle our daily interactions gracefully. My initial 10,000 hours of practice have given me a taste, but I am still on my way to make it a native tongue.