When I was at infants school, there was a little boy in my class who persisted in screaming very loudly directly into my ear. A very literal cry for attention. Well, it worked – I still remember him now – but my memories are not exactly fond. Creating conflict may well make a lasting impression, but never a good one.
It still feels a bit like the schoolyard. We’ve grown upwards, but have we really grown up? Do we talk like adults, or is our adult society still essentially based on who can scream the loudest? The real question is, how should we respond when the world shouts in our ear?
Buddha gave us one simple rule for dealing with conflict: don’t retaliate. Not an easy rule to follow, to be sure, but a powerful method for disarming conflict and keeping our own mind at peace. Not retaliating doesn’t mean bottling up our response; it means transforming our view of the situation so that anger doesn’t arise in the first place.
There are lots of special ways of thinking that Buddha taught to help us do this (which will be looked at during the day course on the 26th November), but I just wanted to share what I think it a useful foundation for being able to practice these instructions: don’t take it so personally.
I know it’s hard not to consider it personal if someone is criticising you and pointing out your faults! But really, are they talking about you at that moment? If they are angry, then that anger is clouding their mind and making them relate to a projection of their own delusion: they are talking to their own made-up version of you, who does not in fact exist. So it’s actually not personal at all: they are shouting at their own mental image, not at you. Let them rant; it doesn’t need to affect you at all.