spirit flows thru -- Alison Rittger's spiritual reflections on finding the holy in the daily
Governor Rick Perry/Ed Shipul
I love the expression “heightened neurosis” and wish I had made it up, but I heard it from Pema Chodron in a talk called “Troublemakers” that she gave in 2006 at the Omega Institute. Her point is that we need the people who irritate us to heighten our neuroses. These annoying folks make us see and feel the inmost unloving aspects of our own nature. This is where we still have work to do.

Texas Governor Rick Perry represents one kind of annoying person, the kind I completely disagree with, but Perry’s path and mine will never cross. My wellbeing depends on his not becoming a mover and shaker in my world, and I think that outcome has already been settled. He is easier to deal with than the actual troublemakers I bump up against day to day. 

Applying Pema’s enlightened approach to people who get on my nerves pleases me. After all, having had a full lifetime of being annoyed, I am an expert at knowing annoyance when I feel it, but not yet so wise as to look at my own reactions as a source of information about me. I do not yet translate being irked as a sign of where I can be hijacked from equanimity. Rather, I jump straight to judging the other and then criticizing myself for judging. 

I find my world peopled with those who, regardless of their intentions, point out to me where my own neurosis is intense. Pema would say I am lucky, that this is a good thing. She says that Vajrayana Buddhist teachers will sometimes be deliberately mean or prodding so as to awaken their students to their blindspots. 

So when anyone utters inanities, comes across as a name-dropper, an expert too full of themselves, wears super strong perfume, sits in front of me in a theater twitching and bobbing, I have the option of feeling gratitude. And I still get to be annoyed. That’s the beauty of nonduality.

I am beginning to recognize when someone well meaning tells me what to do or a friend fails to see the world as I am seeing it, I don’t easily open my heart or my mind to this personal troublemaker.  The negative feelings that arise and my attempts to comfort myself and cover my animosity confuse me. Then confusion lies like a cloud between us.

As I write this I am having an “aha moment.” Actually, I have improved quite a bit. I utter far fewer unkind words and more often suffer my disapproval in silence. And now, not only do I have my public self doing better, but my inner self is quicker to recognize and to admit that the negativity I am feeling is a form of suffering. And I don’t want to suffer.

I’m betting that Pema is right; being provoked is part of the path that must be taken to identify those parts of being me that cause suffering. This knowing may not be fun, but it must be done. In the name of freedom, bring on the troublemakers.   

Gregory J Rittger
7/30/2012 08:37:09 am

I love this. It speaks directly to me. Thank you Ma.

Linda Posner
8/5/2012 08:27:21 am

I especially like the examples of what provokes, and looking at these persons as being sent for the purpose of reflecting my own irritating "blimps and blomps." I look forward to welcoming the next perfume laden, conversation hogging, obsequous, defensive, stingey etc.etc.etc.mirror. Maybe tonight, at the local concert, I'll have the opportunity to dislike the behavior, smell, or look of some one...and see.. me! xoxo sis o' yourn.

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