Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Facing an angry colleague by turning him into a dreamlike angry colleague

This week's Seven Points of Mind Training is "regard all dharmas as dreams". Dharmas here refers to phenomena. This topic links to the Buddhist teachings on emptiness, which is a huge topic. However, very simply one aspect of it is that we take our experiences less seriously. Actually, I recently watched a very interesting TED talk by neuroscientist Anil Seth that made me think of this topic. He demonstrated how none of our perceptions are pure perceptions of reality: all perceptions are in part constructed by our predictions about the world. From a Buddhist perspective, the most important predictions we make are that things are permanent--they are not going to disappear or change, that they are singular--do not consist of multiple parts, and independent--they do not depend on other things. If we think about this, all of this makes a lot of sense, but emotionally we tend to react often as if things are permanent, independent and singular. Conversely, when we consider things are like the stuff that dreams are made of, then we can often see them with a lot more humor and we get less overwhelmed by them.

This week I had a good challenge with which I could practice this: a colleague of mine got very angry with me about some communication issues and misunderstandings. When people get angry at me, my habit is to duck away and try to avoid it. However, this of course does not solve things. So, I had to face it and go talk to the angry colleague. Here the "dreamlike" concept was really helpful. Before I walked to his room, I reminded myself of the dreamlike nature of everything. And in dreams, nothing can really go wrong--when you remember it is a dream you can change everything, and if all else fails, you just wake up. The reminder of dreams immediately gave me some space outside my thoughts, and I worried less about being hurt. And actually the meeting with the colleague turned out not to be so bad after all. If only I could remember this more often!
Ballet also allows me to enter some kind of a different reality or "dream world"
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