This is a wonderful article about dealing with suffering, the zen students method of viewing life on this earth, and the suffering we find.
It also talks about “triggering” – namely the question of whether or not, a zen teacher, when teaching their students, should give a warning like: “this following material may offend you, or cause you trauma” to their students.
Excellent article by Sensei Alex Kakuyo on “The Same Old Zen”
Buddhism and Trigger Warnings
Where would I find enough leather
To cover the entire surface of the earth?
But with leather soles beneath my feet,
It’s as if the whole world has been covered.
Needless to say, I suffered a great deal as a result.
The reason for this is two-fold. First, I honestly don’t know what will or won’t offend everyone I meet. There are some good general rules like the ones I listed above, but beyond that… It seems presumptuous to assume that I know what people might be thinking/ feeling when they attend my talks.
Beyond that, I think trigger warnings present a false ideal as to what Buddhism entails. They imply that the practice is one of safety and comfort; this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Past traumas that I experienced, the family that pushed me away, the job that didn’t meet my expectations; these things were the content of my practice. They’d arise as thoughts, I’d return my focus to my breath, and they’d arise again. This went on for years.
Over time, the memories arose less often, and my reactions weren’t as strong.
Finally, I got bored with them, and I turned my attention to other things. It was a grueling process, but the end result is that my life is calmer. My mind is clearer, and I’m able to approach the world with an openness that I didn’t have before.
But I didn’t reach this point because my teachers protected me from my triggers through warnings and safe spaces. Quite the opposite, they forced me to sit with them, to work with them, to take responsibility for my own mind.
The act of meditation is the act of being triggered over and over again.
And as we work with our triggers, we create “shoes” for our minds in the same way that Shantideva did 2,000 years ago. Of course, we don’t create unnecessary suffering for ourselves. But we don’t run from it either. And we don’t expect teachers to hold our hands or give us warnings in the face of challenging topics.
As Buddhists, we take a different path. We sit on the cushion, we struggle, and we grow strong