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Family matters
September 8th, 2014

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Family matters

   Loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity… 'Others' is too generic though for practical first steps in the practice of generosity, patience, perseverance, equanimity, cultivation, wisdom: 'family' is a more practical context to start with (note: 'practical', I didn't say 'easy')!

   It's quite easy in the midst of one's family to develop conceit, based on any spiritual progress one has made. This is easily recognised as an unhelpful attitude though.
   This isn't to say that one's progress should be denied, but that the projection of a separation is unwholesome: there's only progress if it serves all, not just yourself.
   Serving others might start with one's improved temper and lower reactivity to provocations… but there's further to go! Once you're wiser and more generous, there are many opportunities where and when you can help more than merely staying calm and composed.

   You might e.g. kindly get people to reflect on the tendencies they embody. You might also actually start embodying your own insights more.

   One way to look at this is as follows: prior to your progress, you participated in the status quo (maybe as a victim; maybe as a silent, this-is-not-my-problem, bystander; maybe as a perpetrator), and as such you perpetuated whatever tendency you came against and didn't wisely engage with… that is to say, you participated in perpetuating (or creating or, at the very least, not ceasing) the very tendencies you can now discern as unwholesome. Since you participated in the status quo, you do hold some keys to amend what you've done, if you're willing to look hard enough at your past contribution (be it active or passive).

   Another way to look at this is as follows: one of the biggest gifts we can give to others is… not  to label them! Realise 'your' selflessness but also others': allow others to grow out of old tendencies.
   Projections on genders are ubiquitous, and saying the right thing about universal buddha-nature isn't enough! Statistics on gender equality might be difficult to interpret (e.g. Italy ranks among the countries where women do a lot more domestic chores than men… but it also ranks among the countries with the smallest pay gap!)(e.g. some statistics count how many hours men spend on domestic chores, but this is not comparable between countries with a lot of automation and countries where everything is done manually… hence "proportion of house chores" seems more relevant) but this isn't an excuse.
   While traditional gender roles don't necessarily mean inequality when one considers all  hours of work (paid and unpaid) as contributions to the family's welfare (cf. e.g. for the US evolution of proportions but with pretty constant and equal totals), one has to consider whether traditional gender roles are taken out of choice or out of appropriate wisdom in response to a specific context… or out of indoctrination (under the guise of gender-appropriate education), peer pressure or even oppression. One of the biggest gifts we can give to others is not  to label them ( and, in relation to genders, this means not to automatically  attribute the domestic chores to women or the house repairs to men, it also means not to treat 'customers' or 'collaborators' differently based on gender projections (e.g. assuming women know nothing about cars, or men about children)… Opportunities for laypeople to embody spiritual insights are numberless! This is the bodhisattva path!

   Entanglement doesn't have to be a consequence of inter-dependence; the ignorant ordinary mind is what makes it to be.
   One is 'caught' in entanglement only as long as one sees separate, individual ropes of specific colours… without seeing a wider process. Concentration (meditation) allows to single out any unwholesome rope (tendency, not person!) that needs ceasing, when the opportunity is present and such a focus is what the situation demands. Mindfulness (meditation) allows to see the bigger picture when such a wider perspective is what the situation demands. The Middle Way is found in acting in accordance with what the situation demands, rather than with personal biases, prejudices and preferences.

comics ©  Sara Zimmerman at