I liked this piece very much. The ideal of treating life as one long open-eyed meditation is a great one to realize. Having said that, a question did arise in my mind. When someone "pushes my buttons," how do I know that by not standing up to the neighbor who I've deemed an irritant, I am developing patience and not cowardice? And by standing up to the neighbor, how do I know I am developing courage and not impatience?
A story arose as a response. Around the time of the second Iraq war, when the protests were in full-swing in the Bay Area, the general secretary of Sarvodaya (Mahatma Gandhi's org in India) was visiting Stanford. President Bush was visiting campus, and student groups were organizing protests. Students approached the secretary and asked him to join their "civil disobedience" movement. The secretary responded, "Sure, but first I need to ask you a question to check that this is indeed Gandhian civil disobedience. Do you love Bush?" The question stunned the students, as they could not comprehend why they needed to love Bush. The secretary said, "If you don't love Bush, how can you transform his heart? How can you protest against someone you don't love?"
That story stuck with me. Whenever I saw a friend protesting on something noble (like the lack of love on the part of some sections of our society), I wouldn't hesitate to use this yardstick on them. But the real insight came when I was at a meditation retreat (yes, they are useful too :). Although I was telling people they were contradicting themselves on basic principles, and not having love in their hearts for those they disagreed with, I myself did not have love for them as I pointed this out. In other words, the being was inconsistent with the telling (or doing). I was being hypocritical. That moment of insight was phenomenal - it was one of those moments where one does not know whether to laugh or cry. I suggest laughing :).
The original question can now be resolved by testing whether my being and acting are consistent. Am I manifesting the value which I'm standing up for? If I've decided to point out to someone that they do not love their enemies, is my own heart overflowing with love for them? If not, I cannot transform them and need to be patient until my heart overflows. If so, then speak I must and be the change.
Some of the sharings today were too powerful for me to even attempt trying to capture them. How does one capture the anguished cry of a soul that precedes tears of awakening? That can only be captured in our hearts as indelible impressions of pain and love which we have now experienced by being present.
Some that I could remember - Nipun shared how the sound of a stove gone truant at the start of meditation might have pushed our buttons. I remembered a wise monk who was at a certain point in his life, situated in a house next to train tracks. Every time a train passed by, the whole house reverberated, disturbing the monk's meditation. The monk went to his teacher for advice. The teacher said, "meditate on the sound of the passing train." By making the disturbance a teacher, the monk was able to transcend his aversion and progress in his meditation.
Santosh shared how her toddler son pushes her buttons, breaking the rules of the house, and how such experiences have become her teacher in developing equanimity. I sincerely hope she compiles these stories - they would inspire so many while making us smile.
Ripa shared a lovely story from her yoga teacher-training days, where she was asked to pick the most important yoga. I hope she will share the story online in its fullest glory.
Guri shared how her buttons were pushed when returning from South America, where the pace of life is very different from the US. I hope she tells her story with all its color when she gets a chance.