Friday, January 21, 2011

The Illusion of Authority & Other Reasons You Think I'm Rebellious

"The conqueror who has victory over thousands of soldiers in thousands of battles is nothing compared to those who master their own minds."~ Buddha.
I took a ballet class the other day in which we had an observer sitting in the corner of the room; sitting in this authoritative upright posture, nose slightly tilted upward as if to look down upon us as we were dancing.  Actually, tons of ballet teachers have this look and every time I have to stifle a laugh because they look ridiculous.  I am not going to lie to you.  I have not mastered complete control over my mind because there was a moment when I thought, "Oh God he's watching our class.  Why?  Uh..."  But after a second I reminded myself that there really was no need for panic.  His presence or absence wasn't going to change the way I dance.  Sure the title of "teacher" implies authority. But really what is authority? What power does authority have over me? There are rules and consequences for following rules, or not following rules, but the authority does not choose for me which rules I follow or how I choose to respond to consequences.  All those lie within me.  And so what power do they really have in the end?

I shouldn't push the buttons of this person because I do respect him as a teacher and a person.  We have had long discussions about respect and authority and the many ways I should master my mind and mouth for that matter.  I have to remind myself (often) that when I enter his or anyone's classroom, I have agreed to a set of rules that I will follow for a hour a week.  Some days I adhere to these rules in a stellar fashion and some days are just an epic fail. Sorry guys I'm human.

The biggest complaint I get from the people in my life is that I'm rebellious.  Actually, I don't really consider myself that rebellious at all.  Nothing in my life falls too far out of line of the social norm.  I have a wonderful husband and bright son who is loving (minus a cheese sandwich punk!!!) and capable of thinking for himself.  I have a pretty average job as a writer and web designer. I dance. I drink coffee.  Now how much more average can you get than coffee?   But after watching this observer's expression, I have decided what makes me give this rebellious vibe is that I will smile at this expression and talk sweetly and call authority figures "sir" and "ma'am," and maybe even preform like a monkey for within the presence of said authority.  But every teacher or authority figure always seems to know that buried in my smile is the message that as a person I am your equal.  In my "sirs" and "ma'ams" there is the message titles are nothing to me. And my monkey performances are my choice not yours.  Not just in dance, but in everything I do.

That said.  I'd like to end with one more line of thought from Buddha.  He once listed out the twenty most difficult things to attain in the world.  Only number 9 is relevant to this post and I think I just failed number 15.  But if we've been paying any attention to the discussion above, then you know that I'm gonna post all 20 anyway.

There are twenty difficult things to attain in this world:

1. It is hard for the poor to practice charity.

2. It is hard for the strong and rich to observe the Way.

3. It is hard to disregard life and go to certain death.

4. It is only a favoured few that get acquainted with a Buddhist sutra.

5. It is hard to be born in the age of the Buddha.

6. It is hard to conquer the passions, to suppress selfish desires.

7. It is hard not to hanker after that which is agreeable.

8. It is hard not to get into a passion when slighted. 

9. It is hard not to abuse one's authority.

10. It is hard to be even-minded and simple hearted in all one's dealings with others.

11. It is hard to be thorough in learning and exhaustive in investigation.

12. It is hard to subdue selfish pride.

13. It is hard not to feel contempt toward the unlearned.

14. It is hard to be one in knowledge and practice.

15. It is hard not to express an opinion about others.

16. It is by rare opportunity that one is introduced to a true spiritual teacher.

17. It is hard to gain an insight into the nature of being and to practice the Way.

18. It is hard to follow the way of a saviour.

19. It is hard to be always the master of oneself.

20. It is hard to understand thoroughly the Ways of Buddha.

By Buddha

- Remember any number to the zero power is 1.

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