I wrote last time about doing good and it’s effects in the world, inspired by some of Amma’s guidance and teachings in November in Detroit. Toward the end of her answer to the question posed about what we can do to decrease the violence in the world, she did say (or maybe it was just an observation) that she doesn’t see the situation of so much gun violence changing because our society is one in which anything goes; we all want to be free to do as we like. Whatever we think, we do. However if we try, we CAN bring some limits into that situation which might lead to some changes in the future.
On the surface level, I heard that as an approval of some sensible gun control laws. But why stay on the surface which only serves the small ego-mind? If we broaden our perspective and listen on a metaphorical level, I see her statement being true on a personal level, not just societal. For myself I can easily think of any number of situations where I prefer the easy path of following whatever I want and whatever I think without having any limits on my actions, even sensible limits. Can’t you see that for yourself, too? (And yes, I am trying to be conscious and to regulate my actions and thoughts toward the most appropriate and helpful actions at the right time, as I know probably anyone reading this is too.) Don’t we know that nothing will change for the better if we don’t exert at least a little sensible and reasonable self-discipline?
Certainly we can give ourselves at least a little of this gift. For example, if I want to be healthier, one way is to limit what I eat and to commit myself to a do-able exercise program. In doing so, I will be limiting my freedom… in a way, but the payoff can be, sometimes paradoxically, greater freedom – of movement, of choices, or of mind due to greater health (in this example).
It’s true our society has taught us to value the short-term view at the expense of the long-term. (Just look at our pathetic and late response to global warming for an immediate and obvious example, or the rush to nuclear power 50 years ago.) So if we think “I want to eat potato chips, not carrot sticks,” for example, it’s easy to see that thought coming in the context of a society in which freedom and self-indulgence is esteemed, but it doesn’t change the fact that one choice, consistently and repeatedly made, leads in a particular direction quite different from the other choice.
So in a way, the bottom line could become: “Am I willing to advocate for sensible gun control without being willing to exert some little control on my own actions?” i.e. “Do I just want others to be more controlled, but not me?” (Just a thought that I think we need to seriously consider, and yes, there is a big difference between wanting to and doing murder than simply eating potato chips, for example, but let’s not let ourselves “off the hook” so easily.)
Amma also in her answer said, “the mind is like a drunk monkey, stung by a scorpion and then hit with a coconut!” (funny…if it weren’t so painful) I think the mind is drunk with its own self-importance, stung by selfishness and ignorance, and hit with the hard reality of What Is, different from what its expectations are! Amma continued, “The mind is already in very bad shape. It is always vacillating. If you give a pistol to such a mind, what will happen?” (We see the answer just about every day.)
Again, I rarely find it very useful to think about how the teachings apply to OTHER people (as Amma had said another time, “Spiritual teachings are meant for introspection, not family inspection.”), but I prefer to understand how it applies to myself. I can again easily see examples, though thankfully with less and less frequency, of my mind being just as she described. (Full disclosure: The day after writing that was FULL of watching my mind in that state!… of course. Should have been able to predict that by now!) If we live with other people, we will have ample opportunities to see the vacillating and agitated state of our mind.
HENCE the importance of regular and committed spiritual practice (yoga, meditation, prayer, whatever we are called to). We need to put some salve on the mental/emotional scorpion sting (like “I accept you. I love you.”-the practices of late), put some ice on the place that was hit by the coconut (some forgiveness and compassion to cool down the insides) and give some time and space for our mental inebriation to dissipate and for the inner detox to occur (that’s the repeated spiritual practices to cultivate awareness and inner healing). If we don’t do our inner work, it’s true, nothing’s going to get better. If we don’t apply some sensible limits on our own actions, we’ll end up doing harm, to ourselves or others. If we have calmed that pained, drunk monkey mind some, even if we have done some harm, we will at least be able to know that fact, which is itself a kind of Grace. If we know we have done some harm, we can potentially avoid repeating it, which is definitely Grace.
Last year at this time I wrote about new year’s resolutions. This year, in an effort to simplify, I’ve been thinking how I might need to limit at least one of my (harmful, or potentially harmful) actions. I’m sure the little limitation WON’T be nearly as bad as the ego-mind will try to convince our higher Mind that it is. For myself, I am trying to restrain my tendency toward being grumpy with my kids when they are wanting something other than what I want, aiming at maintaining a friendlier and more open-hearted attitude with them. That’s my small version of personal “disarmament.” Already it seems to be helpful, though not easy, and it definitely feels better… at those times when I’m able to make the jump beyond my small mind and habits! Want to join me in your own version of “gun control?”