"Probably one or two moments in your whole life you will hear a dark whispering spirit, a voice coming from the center of things. It will have blades for lips and will not stop until it speaks the one secret thing at the heart of it all." The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
|Buddhism in the Barnyard...|
|Written by Hollie Hirst|
|Tuesday, 02 August 2011 20:00|
I spend a lot of time in the barnyard these days; mucking stalls, feeding, riding, and doing ground work with the horses; which means that as I go through my day and take my practice off of the yoga mat and off of the zafu, most of my insights tend to happen in the barnyard, so I decided to start a new series of blogs. I hope you enjoy and they are of benefit…
January 7th, 2012
Ok, I have a confession to make.
I like to write my first drafts while enjoying a draught (heh, punny, aren’t I?!) or a glass or three of wine, to be more precise! This is all good and fine, until I forget to look over my document before submitting it to Elephant Journal, and they publish my wine steeped musings! Imagine my embarrassment when I look at the link they send me to find this has been posted for all the world to see! Now, I’m not saying that when I’m sober I am the world’s best writer… but geesh, I would like to think I generally develop my thoughts a little more before I put them out there for all the world to see. So, below is the more developed, well thought out version of my thoughts… still rambling, still not at all scientifically supported. Just my simple musings after a morning of shoveling shit… er, uh, horse manure, that is…
Here is the finished piece... well, as finished as a piece ever is, anyway.
Yesterday on the way back home from my usual morning of muckin’ and feeding I was reminiscing about the ‘psych of personality class I recently took. At one point we were talking about Costa and Mc Ray’s trait theory and I became caught up in contemplating whether I am an introvert or an extrovert. (personally I think the HEXACO model is more valid.)
I think most people would categorize me as an extrovert. I am pretty outgoing and sociable. But when my prof helped to clarify stating, ‘Where do you get your energy? What makes you feel rejuvenated and replenished? Spending time alone, or spending time with people?’
This sent me to wondering… I love my time with others, I love my time alone. But neither replenishes me. So I began to think back upon the most moving experiences in my life. I asked myself, ‘When have you felt most fully alive?’
Immediately the answer became clear. Without a doubt the most moving and energizing experiences in my life have been when I am around big and powerful animals how could hurt me, but chose not to.
For example, when it comes to dogs, big and fuzzy ones have always been my favorites. As a young child, around age 4, I ran away from home. Somewhere there is a photo of me on my tricycle, with my dolly in the basket and my big black shepherd by my side. I loved that dog and trusted her like I trusted no one else at that point.
And horses, I love em! They are so honest. You can read a horse’s feelings with a glimpse. Their ears, eyes, tails and muscle tension hold a wealth of information. They don’t lie to you. Unlike people, many of whom, research has shown lie "three times in a ten minutes conversation".
All of this thinking about animals and their honesty led me think about how autistic folk have been described as having a decreased ability to function socially because they have a decreased ability to interpret social cues. However, there have also been circumstances where autistic individuals prefer to be around and feel more comfortable around animals than around humans. Temple Grandin, of course, being the most famous.
I have no empirical proof for this, but I wonder…. maybe the reason that some autistic people relate more to animals is because the animals do not try to deceive. And maybe one reason for the social difficulties they experience is not that autistic folk have difficulty interpreting social cues, maybe it’s that they are actually especially skilled at interpreting nonverbal cues.
Humans lie not only to others, but we also lie to ourselves. I would think that all this deceit might make it an incredibly confusing landscape for someone who is especially skilled at reading non-verbal cues. For example, if someone is lying, their face might betray their true feelings with a microexpression for a split second. An individual who is especially skilled at reading these microexpressions, but lacking in guile, might not understand your deception. They might then react to your true feelings, rather than to your feigned feelings, and thus be interpreted as having poor social skills, whereas they are actually very skilled.
Just a silly musing of mine… but if you happen to be working on your PhD and need an are of research, feel free to use my idea.
Oh, and as to whether I am an extrovert or introvert... when I was talking about this to a friend he coined the term anivert. So ya, I think I'm actually an anivert!
September 28th, 2010
I hope you find this helpful next time you are feeling attacked or someone is devaluing you... of course we must first check the feedback we are being given from friends we know and trust, and we must be open to personal growth, when necessary.
You can lead a horse to water…
This summer I had the good fortune of going to Washington DC to attend some teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. While there I also did some volunteer work such as crowd control and working at the sangha entrance.
One morning I was outside giving out flyers inviting people to join HH the Dalai Lama for a free speech on the capital lawn. The topic of the speech was to be on world peace.
I was surprised to find that many passers-by had absolutely no interest in attending the speech.
In light of this disinterest I found myself thinking,
‘Seriously? Even if I weren’t a Buddhist (I know, sounds weird, but I’m pretty sure that’s grammatically correct!) I would totally go to a free speech on the topic of World Peace by a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize! I mean, a chance like this doesn’t come along every day.’
As I was out handing out flyers for may hours, I had the chance to chew on this thought for a while longer. For example, I thought… It always hurts my feelings and makes me sad when I know I can be of service to someone, and yet they don’t take me up on my offers, or when I know I have a great idea and those I go to for support don’t listen to or value my suggestions.
But after seeing that, even though HH the Dalai Lama has been acknowledged as a valued teacher, not only within his own culture and religion, but also by a global institution with such stature as the Nobel Committee, there are some who still don’t value his input, this realization helped me put some perspective on my own experiences (and the experiences I of some of my loved one's).
Not that I am comparing myself to His Holiness, not by any means. But it was a comfort to see that even though he is acknowledged and recognized by many, there are still others that don’t recognize or value his input. In fact, there are many, even whole governments, as in the case of China, who are adamantly opposed to HH the Dalai Lama.
Of course with someone as well respected as His Holiness it is easy to recognize that the perspectives of those who don’t value him are more a reflection of their minds, rather than a reflection of his skills or knowledge or worth. This devaluing is instead is a reflection of the confusion within the mind of those who are doing the devaluing.
Contemplating this made me realize that sometimes, no matter how skilled you are, no matter how valuable your insights and ideas are, there are some that won’t recognize or value of your input, and they may even attack you or slander you…
... or to be pithy and put this thought in the verbiage of the Barnyard Buddhist
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”
August 22, 2011
This past weekend I had the good fortune of attending a workshop on Tibetan Debate offered at the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center, located in Bloomington, Indiana.
Professor Daniel Perdue and his teaching assistant Majid Razyi taught the class and did an amazing job at assisting us in beginning to wrap our minds around such a difficult subject matter.
I am not going into the debate stuff here, as I would not do it justice, but instead I will share a Buddhist saying that Dr Purdue shared with us… I don’t remember the exact context, but we were talking about ethics and morals when he stated:
“When it comes to ethics, be like a cow swatting at flies.”
Even though I have spent plenty of time in cow pastures, and around various farm animals, I still didn't quite understand and needed to hear an explanation.
The good Professor observed my confusion and continued, stating something along the lines of…
"Cows only swat at their own flies,
whereas horses will line up next to each other,
face to booty, and swat at each other’s flies."
I found this to be a lovely and gentle barnyard Buddhist reminder to be nonjudgmental of others, and to worry only about maintaining my own integrity!
(Or in other words, shovel your own sh*$! ;)
August 1, 2011.
I delivered a truckload of nearly composted horse poop to a friend today. On my way over I was thinking about how my time at the barn helps me deepen my practice and offers up so many metaphors.
(Photo taken much later, in November)
For instance, when someone is ‘giving you crap’,
so to speak,
all you have to do with it is put it in a pile and let it sit there…
or climb upon cushion and sit with it, as the case may be.
Occasionally, you might want to turn it over (in your mind) a few times, adding rains of compassion by attempting to understand what causes and conditions in their life led them to behave this way.
Eventually, though, with enough time and a little compassion, the crap they give you will turn to compost, which you can then use to fertilize your garden.
With a little more time, what was poop will become vegetables or flowers that you can share with others.
How lovely is that!
Ultimately, some day, we might even be grateful for our ‘enemies’
for if we use their crap to inform our growth,
we will turn it into something that will nurture many!
An hour or so later, I was reading His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s (commentary on Kamalashila’s) ‘Stages of Meditation’ and this is what he had to say on the matter…
“On a mundane conventional level, enemies are those who cause us harm, and we are hostile to them for doing so. But viewed in another light… It is in relation to enemies that we can practice patience and tolerance and thus reduce the burden of anger and hatred. We should take maximum advantage of this opportunity to enrich and enhance our practice of patience…”
His Holiness then cited Kamalashila, stating…
“After the mind has developed equanimity toward all sentient beings, meditate on loving-kindness. Moisten the mental continuum with the water of loving kindness and prepare it as you would a piece of fertile ground. When the seed of compassion is planted in such a mind, germination will be swift, proper and complete.” (page 57)
Now, let me add just one more thing, because I know someone out there is thinking something along the lines of (well, that is, if anyone reads this ;D),
“See religion IS the opiate of the masses. There are things that people should be angry about! There are bad people out there who will hurt others and this just encourages people to stay around and be a whipping post!”
His Holiness often acknowledges this when he makes statements like:
‘If there is a crazed dog, one does not stay around, one must run away and be safe’!
So, as I understand it, practicing compassion for our enemies does not mean we stay around and let them rip us to shreds! But we must not become like them in their anger and violence. We must, by coming to understand it in all its intricacies, become more than the anger...
only then are we are able to become proactive, rather than reactive.
In addition, in my experience, well thought out actions, rather than reactions based in anger and a desire for revenge, are always a more effective agents of change.
I love how Buddhism uses so many horse metaphors.
For example, a practice that I have been doing recently states,
‘the horse of the mind, untamed…crazed...’
In other words,
an untrained horse will spook at the slightest surprise, or at an unfamiliar sound or sight and thus will run amok and might accidentally hurt anything that gets in its way.
An untrained mind will do the same.
Train your mind.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 08 January 2012 03:38|