Do No Harm.
It seems like a simple statement, but what a complex notion it really is. I've been thinking more and more about this, as the Christian high holiday approaches, and the news continues to frustrate me with tales of racist Sheriffs and bigoted presidential candidates.
What is Harm?
Harm is physical, emotional or ethical damage to another or to oneself. The last part is what most folks miss, I think.
What does it hurt me to get angry at someone else?
Just look at the physiological reaction; clenched teeth, increased heart rate, muscle tension, sweating. Anger tears the mind and body down. Of course, anger and other emotions can't be avoided. That's not the point. However, it is important to be mindful of the emotion, and particularly our response to it. What is causing the anger? What will my response do and how am I harming myself or others with that response?
How do I cause harm?
To know how I am causing harm is an exercise in mindfulness.
As a blogger, well, very occasional blogger, do I cause harm? The online world is an easy dumping ground for anger. It is easy to take a frustration or perceived injustice and produce a diatribe on a blog.
But how do I voice my concerns without causing harm? It may not be possible in all cases. I'm just going to have to learn to live with that. A willingness to not harm is not the same as inaction. There are still times when action is necessary.
Look at folks like Crystal Cox. She, and she's not alone, uses the web to attack people who she thinks have done wrong. Is she doing harm? The court certainly thought so. She sure harmed Mr. Padrick.
I ran across an interesting blog post by Melissa Karnaze, "17 Ways Mindfulness Meditation Can Cause You Emotional Harm". It's a pretty entertaining post, but the comments are what really shine. The post is a typical prime number leading format post with little to back it up, and the author doesn't appear to have much knowledge of Buddhism or meditation, but it's hard to tell, there really isn't much of substance in the article. However, as I mentioned, the comments really shine. Several times folks tried to guide Melissa regarding mindfulness, but the author wasn't listening for some reason. Age perhaps. I don't know. I do know I had a hard time dealing with mindfulness and accepting responsibility when I was young. Heck, I still do.
Perhaps that is part of the challenge. Perhaps it takes age/time to slow down and really dig into those internal struggles.
To Teach A Lesson
I've heard it so many times…they need to be taught a lesson.
If they are not mindful enough to see the harm they are doing, then what can my actions change?
Why do people tailgate? It seems like such a strange behavior. What are the thoughts behind it? I'm going to make sure you know you are doing something wrong. So I'm going to drive my car right behind yours and encourage you to change your behavior. Does this work? Do you really think you can change someone else's behavior by simply driving close behind them? The energy spent on the action, the frustration and anger, the road rage, is harmful, and what good does it do?
What started me thinking about this? Partly because of a wonderful lecture I was listening to by Gil Fronsdal, with the Insight Medication Center, in which he discussed the 5 precepts and how each is an exercise in mindfulness, all in support of doing no harm. It is a lesson I try to take to heart. I try to stay mindful of my actions, particularly at work, and see if my actions are harmful to myself or others. And more often than not, they are. What do I do then? I take that moment as a learning exercise and look to see what started me down the path of doing harm.
Standard root cause analysis :-)
What is the point, Melissa may ask? Well, the point is not to suppress my emotions or suppress anything for that matter. The point is to accept responsibility for the harm I am causing myself and others, and learn to not continue that practice.