I've come to realize that I have immense difficulty expressing how I feel in a direct fashion, because I often think that what I'm feeling is unjustified. I push away these feelings, and sometimes Buddhism provides a convenient language in which to do this. "Oh, that anger is anatta, not-self. There really is no 'me.' I shouldn't react to it. I should abide in upekkha, equanimity. Anger is a klesha, defilement, and I vow to purify myself of defilements." When really what I want to do is throw something or cry.

So, sometimes that anger does decompose if it's minor enough and buried in swampy enough ground. Usually what happens is that the anger from that specific situation fades, until I encounter that specific situation again. Which I nearly always do, in some form. I suppose that's what they mean when they say you'll keep encountering the same problem until you resolve it.

Back to my point... I like to think that I'm a generous, compassionate, easygoing person. And frequently I am. But these are not fixed qualities, and their opposites (selfishness, coldness, anger) also exist within me. This is what I have trouble accepting, and loving unconditionally. I am not being who I am when I'm trying to be that "good" person.

One thing I have difficulty understanding in Buddhism is its emphasis on solitude. Meditation, while often done in groups, does not require interaction with others. Many of the great "heroes" of Buddhism experienced long periods of solitude. I do think it's important to become comfortable with oneself, and I do think that solitude is one means to that end.

However, I think it's relationships that teach you who you are and offer possibilities for improvement. Relationships hold up a mirror to our souls and ask "is THIS who you wanted to be?" Alone, we can forget the 5 trunkloads of emotional baggage we cart around with us. When it affects another person, it slaps us in the face.

I have been slapped in the face with my own selfishness. Sometimes I want what I want, when I want it, regardless of what the other feels. I didn't honestly realize I was doing this. I figured since I think so much about the other person, I can't be selfish. But as I watch my thoughts, they're mostly about what he can do for me, what he hasn't been doing for me, etc. Not how he feels, not what he wants, not what I can do for him.

This is a devastating shock to me. I did not think I was this type of person. What further disturbs me is that it seems so deep-rooted that while I can mouth compassionate words, I do not feel them. I know what I'm supposed to say. I know what I'm supposed to feel. I think the reason I don't feel it is fear. I'm terrified of not getting what I want, and to give to the other person without anything in return feels like giving something up. As if love is a zero-sum game, which it's not.

Somewhere in an essay about Buddhism and marriage (which I can't find, or I'd link it), the author says that if we cannot treat our loved ones with respect and compassion, how can we save all sentient beings? Which is, of course, the Bodhisattva vow. Why do we sometimes feel more compassion for strangers we see on the news than our own families?

I digress... anyway... this has been a disheartening few days for me as I come face to face with my own mental defilements. Now to set on the task of removing them.

Okay, so it's been awhile. I slipped off into the suffering slumber of samsara, and now I'm shaking myself awake. Sometimes I need a reminder of why I chose this path, and I certainly have had that in the past month. All my suffering - every tiny little bit - has been created by me and me alone. My expectations dictate the level of my suffering. The less willing I am to accept things as they are, the more suffering I must endure. Simple cause and effect.

Sometimes I am angry or resentful and can't pinpoint a source, which is where mindfulness comes in. There are one hundred little things that upset me on a daily basis, but what is really going on? Am I really that childish and selfish that I will throw a mini-tantrum if I don't get my way? I keep thinking I should be more mature, but the fact is that I'm not. I haven't yet learned how to drive the cart; the horse is still leading me. (And he's easily spooked.)\

There seem to be two schools of thought - the one that seeks to get to the root of the problem so it can be effectively resolved; and the one that seeks to pull out the arrow without needing to know who shot it or why. I waver between these two. I know it's a myth that there is some grand "solution," but I keep looking for it anyway.