“The very purpose of spirituality is self-discipline. Rather than criticizing others, we should evaluate and criticize ourselves. Ask yourself, what am I doing about my anger, my attachment, my pride, my jealousy? These are the things we should check in our day to day lives.”
I saw this posted yesterday by the Dalai Lama on Facebook. It encompasses all life as I know it and it reminded me of the advice a friend got when she asked for help with her new husband and his children.
She had been suffering watching what she considered bad and confusing parenting that as she saw it was leading to behavior issues with children she now found herself living with. She didn’t want to put a charge in her new married relationship and when she asked a friend, who also happens to be a phenomenal therapist, she got the answer, “Be a safe place for the kids.”
What a good idea! It kept her out of her new husband’s and his ex’s faces and it allowed her some autonomy with new and fairly adult housemates. She also, on her own, decided she would not participate in actions she thought eroded the children’s taking responsibility for their actions.
Instead of getting enmeshed in the situation and adding to what was already confused, she added clarity and kept herself a safe place both for the kids and her husband. She did not tell him what she thought – a marvel of self-restraint. She didn’t tell him what she “saw” or describe or ascribe anything to anybody.
Her self-discipline kept her safe for everyone to go to – they wouldn’t be shamed or abetted, she didn’t take sides. Her role-modeling allowed anyone who could to learn and anyone who wasn’t ready to wait – safely.
A simple (ha!) act of non-engagement can be our strongest stand. Taking our self in hand can be the most powerful step we choose. Vietnamese Vipassana master Thich Nhat Hahn asks us to “let peace begin with me.” He advises to take a breath when the phone rings, the door opens, any entrance into our physical space or our emotional mind, take a moment of breath connection before acting. We will be more ourself, and that is all we’re here to do.