By John Lee Pendall
Being honest isn’t the same thing as telling the truth.
I don’t think so, anyway. To me, being honest means being authentic. We live genuinely, and when we say something, we mean it. I think honesty means expressing the truth of the moment.
Truthfulness is different; it’s more all-encompassing. If we lived truthfully, well, I’m guessing none of us would have any friends, we’d be totally alienated from our families, and probably in prison. No matter how honest we are, we still end up spending most of our time in our heads with our unvoiced thoughts, un-shared feelings, and un-acted on impulses
I’m not sure if this can be helped, or if we’d even want it to be different; it’s just part of being human.
If we were truthful, we’d never shut the fuck up. All day long, every single thought in our inner monologues would just come spilling out all over the room like a red wine stain on a white carpet (white carpets are a bad idea).
We’d get pissed at each other constantly since we’d be perpetually talking over one another. We’d act on every impulse, regardless of whether it’s moral or not. And no matter how brazen or belligerent someone might seem, I guarantee they’re still holding back to some degree.
I hold myself back a lot. I’ve held onto more words than I’ve ever given away. My mind’s a museum of unused “I love you’s” and overly personal questions like, “Have you masturbated yet today?” There’s an entire sprawling exhibit featuring nothing but thousands of, “Fuck you’s” in all kinds of different creative arrangements.
We keep our extremes in silence.
The things we don’t say and don’t do define us just as much as the things we do—maybe even more so. This means that we’re all liars in a way. But, they’re wholesome lies. Sometimes, not being yourself is the most compassionate thing you can do for someone. Civilization is kind of a mask that we all wear in the name of the greater good. How many times have you had to stop it from slipping?
This is one of the aspects of meditation that a lot of people don’t advertise.
The second you sit down with the intention to meditate, that mask is already off. You’re immediately 100% aware of what a freaking mess you are. There’s instant awareness of all the fear, frustration, restlessness, doubt and desire. It’s all right there, all up in your face and shit.
It takes a lot of drive to move past that flurry of madness, if getting past it is your goal. That’s not my goal. I just sit down and fall into a river, letting everything be. Sometimes I float, swim, sink, or drown. Sometimes I freeze; sometimes I flow or even evaporate. Who I am has nothing to do with who I am, but what everything is, so I let life create me. How can I deny any part of this? There’s so much ugliness, but I can’t give it up.
That would mean giving up the beauty as well.
Yet, if I wanted to live truthfully, that would mean living silently in a different way; my silence would no longer be a way to restrain myself. Instead of not saying certain things to others, I’d also not think them to myself. Then I’d no longer be a liar.
Maybe a Buddha is a person whose words and actions are totally in sync with his or her thoughts, feelings, and impulses? A person whose inner and outer personae flawlessly reflect each other. To a person like that, “persona” would just be a word.
I don’t think that means totally letting it all hang out. It takes a lot of effort to get to effortlessness and a lot of self-discipline to be able to let ourselves be spontaneous. There’s a point when you can just be yourself without restraint and not cause any harm by being that. A Buddha wouldn’t have to bite back a, “Jackass,” after saying, “Thank you,” to a rude gas station clerk. A Buddha would just say thank you.
I’m not that person, though. I’m a broken, blubbering, mess of a primate. I have to be; the alternative is losing touch with my humanity.
That’s the bodhisattva path: you bring your baggage with you until you don’t see it as baggage anymore. Then, suddenly, it isn’t. What was a hundred pounds before is now lighter than air.
How do you think the Laughing Buddha was able to keep laughing while toting that giant bag around the country? He didn’t see his burden as a burden, so it wasn’t one. All things are like this. That’s the main message of the Diamond Sutra. In life, what ya see is what ya get, so the trick is to change the way you see it.
That makes it easier to let who we are match up with who we appear to be.
Empathy lets us see ourselves through others’ eyes. If we only see ourselves with our own eyes, we’re never going to feel complete because we’re not gonna know the whole story of who we are. Through practice, we can find a balance between who we are to ourselves and to others and walk that middle way where both sides look the same.
That’s the bodhisattva path: you bring your baggage with you until you don’t see it as baggage anymore. ~ Johnathon Lee Pendall Click To Tweet
Editor: Dana Gornall
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Feel free to check out his Facebook page, his blog "Salty Dharma", and/or his non-Buddhist poetry at "The Writer's Block."
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