Feeling Stuck, Feeling Wronged

One’s perspective of our world today carries a lot of weight—arguably, all the weight. As I sit in my room today (as I have done for the past twenty-five days), I feel troubled. I am beginning to become antsy. I want to go out and see the world, but I also want and need my world to heal. I know I am not alone in these feelings, but that doesn’t necessarily resolve my emotions. When reading Śāntideva’s sixth chapter of the Bodhicaryāvatāra, I found a new perspective and method to addressing my emotions.  

[106]    Beggars are easy to find in this world but those who will  

cause harm are not because if I do no wrong, no one  

wrongs me.  

I situate this verse within my own dilemma. Problems—like beggars—are easy to identify in my world (stuck inside, tired of house chores, etc.), but they do not necessarily cause harm. Rather, I situate them as the enemy. I become frustrated with them and arguably, attached to them. Therefore, I inflict the “wrong” upon myself. If I can begin to frame today’s events or even my frustrations in a more positive light, I will no longer be wronged. For instance, I should not resent the fact that I have been inside for 25 days; rather, I should value this experience. I am lucky to be able to be inside. I should be grateful for my situation. 

Furthermore, I should not identify these problems as obstacles (verse 104); rather, I should recognize each issue as an opportunity to better myself and arguably my situation. For example, I should look upon my room as my new sanctuary—perhaps, some spring cleaning is in order.  

As the current pandemic ensues within the US and the world, I need to be able to identify the origin of my frustrations and reconcile with the pain inflicted by my “wrong” perspective.  

2 thoughts on “Feeling Stuck, Feeling Wronged”

  1. Lacey, I definitely agree that perspective is so important in times like these. I too have found myself lamenting about my situation. About how I’m trapped in my apartment and how I can’t be with my family in Taipei, and it’s easy to cling onto these frustrations. However, like you said, a quick change in perspective reveals how fortunate we are to have a roof over our heads and food in our mouths. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I had a similar reaction to last week’s reading, “The Perfection of Forebearance.” Our circumstances are frustrating, and it would be irresponsible to understate the difficulties of self-isolation. That said, it does seem helpful to view our quarantine as an opportunity. Most of us have some extra time on our hands; if we can use that to our advantage – picking up some of the hobbies we’d intended to learn, but never found time to – it seems plausible that we could both alleviate the frustrations of our quarantine and improve ourselves in the process. Unfortunately, I’ve held this perspective for some time, and my days in self-isolation haven’t been so fruitful as I’d hoped they might be. You wrote that you become attached to your frustrations – and I think that I’ve had a similar experience. If I’m feeling cooped up or bored, I don’t always channel my energy towards a productive task. I’ll often just sit, mulling over my frustrations, and failing to accomplish anything significant with all my new free time. Like you, I’ve found that I’m much better at identifying my problems (and even their solutions) than I am at overcoming them. I think that as I’ve tried to draw from the lessons of Santideva, I’ve found his philosophy easier to comprehend than his practical wisdom. With last week’s reflection on “The Perfection of Forebearance,” I was resolute; I would learn to endure my uncomfortable environment, and I would succeed regardless of suffering. Several days later, I still feel like I need to do this, but I’m not quite sure how.

    This week’s reading, “The Perfection of Meditative Absorbtion,” felt uniquely helpful on this front. The chapter’s introduction discussed two functions of Buddhist meditation: calming, or samatha, and insight, or vipasyana. For quarantine relief, samatha meditation seems most useful; it’s concerned with stabilizing the mind, and cultivating positive emotions like friendliness and compassion. Trapped with my family now for 25 days, my capacity for friendliness is waning, and I’m certainly open to any meditative technique that might relax my growing tension. Though Santideva is frustratingly short on details, it’s obvious that the benefits of samatha meditation are corroborated by Mahayana and non-Mahayana Buddhists alike. I think that starting this week, I may try using the introductory meditation course on the app Calm (it’s very popular). If I practice regularly, and my mind can become, as the book describes, more “one-pointed and tranquil,” then maybe I can come closer to achieving all that I’d like to over the next couple months of isolation.

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