Monday, November 03, 2008

The Hungry Ghost....


" If you want to know the past, to know what has caused you, look at yourself in the PRESENT, for that is the past's effect. If you want to know your future, then look at yourself in the PRESENT, for that is the cause of your future."

Majjhima Nikaya

Yesterday, I alluded to some lessons that have been coming my way.

Last year at this time, I was planning a trip to Thailand so that I could spend my birthday there. It was expensive. The credit card bill is still arriving every month and the balance is still high.

I'm not going this year. This year, I'm going to do something new and focus on something new.

When I mentioned the important lessons I've been learning from the Lao people, one of the lessons stood out in particular and I had to face a part of me that I don't much like.

For a lot of years, I've allowed myself to become steeped in bitterness. It shows mostly in my occasionally caustic tongue and my bad temper.

The framework I've used for dealing with this is one of the best I could have chosen for me. It won't work for everyone and some people wouldn't like it or don't care about it. I picked the framework of Thai culture because I like structure. It provides that. It provides community. It provides ritual and meaning. It feeds me like nothing else ever has. I can like me when it cloaks me.

When we find something like that, it can take a long, long time to get past the point where we're strictly soaking it in, taking its balm, feeling its comfort. That's what I've been doing.

Now it's time to stop.

That is what I'm learning from the Lao people here. They are showing me in action some things that I've only known intellectually from a purely selfish perspective. It was feeding me. It was taking care of me. It was provided structure and meaning to me.

But what was I doing for others?

In spending time with the people I know now, I see an unfailing and humble generosity. They don't look for reward or acknowledgement. They just keep giving because it's such an intrinsic part of their way of life. In the case of the woman who loaned me money for the car, I've seen someone who is a whirlwind of action. She is always helping other people. In the several months I've known her, I don't think I've ever seen a selfish act on her part. It's always about other people. She's extroverted, can work a room, can raise funds and create enthusiasm. She's a leader. She is a respected leader in the Lao community.

The more time I spend with her, the more I realize it's time for me to stop taking. It's time for me to be more like her.

I'm not condemning myself for the past. When I found the culture I live now, I was a lost, hungry, empty shell of a human being. The damage was profound. I needed to be affirmed. I had nothing to give. We all have those times in our lives and I totally get that. In order to be a balanced person, we all need our Hungry Ghost times, too.

But.... it's time to grow up.

One of those things for me is understanding, fully, that everything doesn't have to be a black and white choice. I'm going over to sign up for some volunteer work. On Thanksgiving, I will be feeding hungry people, lonely people, at a dinner sponsored by a local Catholic church.

I'm stretching myself because ordinarily I wouldn't acknowledge Thanksgiving because it doesn't matter to me. It's not one of my holidays.

So, what? It matters to a bunch of people who will show up that afternoon for companionship, food, friendship and perhaps some affirmation. This is a small way I can give back what's been given to me by a bunch of people who certainly never had to take me in, comfort me, befriend me and enrich my life in a way I didn't know is possible.

Need doesn't discriminate. Some things need to be black and white. You support Obama or you support McCain. You support a conservative agenda or a progressive one. You support Proposition 8 or you don't. You have to pick a side.

And sometimes you just have to give without conditions. It doesn't matter who is on the receiving end. It only matters that we give.

That's what I've learned and now that I'm mobile, I will devote the next year to consciously seeking out opportunities to spread that generosity around.

(Note on election night: I hope people will stop by. I'm going to post commentary and returns. It will be a [sort of] live blogging throughout the evening. The polls on the east coast close at 4.00 PM our time. Let's share some Thai food and discussion back and forth. :)

~*

13 comments:

Molly said...

I've always believed that what goes around comes around. You give, you help, you console, you comfort, you support.......You don't do it calculating what'll be in it for you. Karma takes care of it.....

Anvilcloud said...

It's good to keep learning and growing.

Carol said...

Very beautiful, Chani.

I agree with you when you say, "It doesn't matter who's on the receiving end. It only matters that we give."

I want to be and give love. And no one - whatever they may do - can take away my freedom to do so.

I may just show up here tomorrow night, Pad Thai (somewhat Americanized) in hand.

meno said...

MMmmm, thai food!

The volunteering i do really does a world of good for me, as well as helping others. It's a win/win.

citizen of the world said...

Good for you. Bitterness is easy to fall prey to (I know I have my moments) but ultimately so very soul- and self-destroying.

(I'd stop my tomorrow but I'm going to be hiding and wishing.)

Border Explorer said...

This post feels like very good energy to me. I affirm your new directions. You are always an inspiration.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Chani, I'm so impressed by your blunt honesty about yourself in this post, and I'm inspired by the new direction you want to take. Thank you for sharing this.

Leann said...

You have obviously grown, which is what life is all about. I get greater joy giving because I can than waiting for the alcolades of doing it. There have been people who have helped me along when I needed it and I am finally in a position to continue the trend.

flutter said...

this is beautiful, and it is lovely to see you bloom

Joan said...

Dear Chani~
I believe that it is only when we are loved and recovering that we can in turn freely give with a spirit of love.

When we are broken and empty and in need of comfort and healing... reaching out and searching for love and compassion... this is the necessary path to emotional wellness and strength.
It is only after we have been filled to overflowing that we can in turn open our hands and our hearts in a spirit of compassion and empathy to a hurt and dying people.
I do not yet know your story, but it is my hope that I one day will :)
For today, I am believing that all that you have received in love... you are now able to multipy much like the loaves and fishes and bring emotional support, nourishment, and sustenance to where you are led, all with a heart filled with love.
The more we give... the more we receive, how incredibly beautiful that is.
I shall be back to see you during elections!!!

much love to you today xoxo

heartinsanfrancisco said...

We have all been told from childhood that it is more blessed to give than to receive. But what a magnificent surprise to learn that our parents, teachers, pastors, whoever was the source of that bit of intelligence was right - that it is, in fact, a joyous confirmation of our time on earth to give and to receive without keeping score, trusting that we will get our fair share and knowing that helping others is our true purpose here.

And the Thai food sounds wonderful. I wish I lived close enough to share it with you.

RKK said...

Thank you for this post - it was quite inspirational for me, something I needed today.

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

Chani - wonderful post. I was just discussing this very thing with someone this morning.

I'm sorry I only got to this now - I would have liked to see the "live blogging" - instead, I was sacked out like a zombie watching the returns after the pavement tromping which tromped me!