Years ago I said to a male teacher that I felt really angry but there was no content to my anger. He replied, “I don’t know any woman who isn’t angry. In fact, if a woman is not angry, I wonder about her sanity.”
My geyser is roaring and the last vestiges of niceness, ladylikeness and sweet demeanor are gone. If you are not interested in bold truth-telling with spicy language, stop reading. My words are not for the faint of heart or the practice of idiot compassion. (If the phrase idiot compassion (1) offends you, meaning, you are triggered (hurt, defensive, skeptical), consider this moment an invitation to explore. Idiot compassion is innocent, unless it becomes a mask of being nice when a different response is necessary. No blame, judgment or criticism is present in my statement; we have all innocently practiced idiot compassion.) Please understand, my fiery energy is in the service of truth, humanity, love and universal care. This “anger” energy is required to source power, clarity and determination on behalf of this precious life for all beings. The essence of anger is clarity with energy that cuts through the fog of conceptions.
Day after day shit happens that pisses me off.
The body doesn’t lie. My body doesn’t lie. For the past six weeks I have been attending to a red-hot rash on my face that feels like a beard of bee stings on steroids. At times the rash moves up my face, around my nose, on my eyelids, and between my eyebrows. It’s not pretty. But the look bothers me much less than the “search” for the cause, and tempering the pain.
The growing team of detectives is amusing: naturopath, dermatologist, acupuncturist, chiropractor, energy worker… A few weeks ago at the dermatologist with the raging rash, I was given a prescription for a generic topical ointment to calm the pain. I asked for a sample to get started immediately and the doctor said, “No, let’s try this generic brand, it will work better.” OK. I stood patiently in line at the pharmacy, then was given the prescription and a $500 charge. Yes. You read the correct number: $500 for an 8 oz. tube of gel. I almost leveled the pharmacist-in-training, tempering my tears. “Are you serious? This is generic?” His discomfort with my reaction was palpable. But I also sensed his embarrassment.
How can a generic brand of medicine – something to heal a person – cost so much? This is fucking insanity. No, it’s greed. I left, eyes pooling and jaw cinched, without the tube of relief. On the phone with the receptionist (because of course the dermatologist was unavailable) I again requested a sample of something having politely (here is that behavior again) but firmly said the prescription was $500 after insurance. She agreed $500 was a significant cost. In my silence, I was screaming, God, give me anything – cow manure – I’m about to rip my face off. Back to the doctor’s office, leaving with sample in hand, I found some peace and relief.
I’m told that my body is releasing toxins (like arsenic, and other yummy poisons). I’m told that anger is held in the intimate crevices of my liver, gall bladder and vital organs. I’m told that my diet needs an upgrade. I’m sporting patches on my back testing for allergens. All true. Yes. I am keenly aware of all of these moving parts being true. And now I am aware of something else “hot off the press”. The results from the allergy test indicate I am severely allergic to fragrance. While I am not a perfume kind of gal, you would be stunned by all of the fragrance in products. And now I prepare for another adventure, fragrance free.
My body is also matching the reality of our world. It’s fighting greed.
Let’s continue my story. I understand profit for a company that needs revenue to operate and pay salaries. I understand research and development for an industry to make medical advances. I’m clear on the flow of business operations and how money moves through the system. That’s the problem. I am informed. I know there is a fine line, a no-man’s land, a grey space of capital growth that is being crossed again and again and again – into greed.
Greed is a toxic plague in our modern world.
As I stood there on the verge of tears in front of the young pharmacist, my thoughts went to the masses who cannot afford this luxury of ointment. How can a system be so cruel? If I had to, I could dive into my savings and spend $500 for the tube. But outrage stopped me. And probably released more anger through my face.
My mother-in-law, Bea, died April 13th and her automatic bill paying for various services continues until the “authorities” are notified with proof of death (death certificate) that this customer no longer needs the service and to cease billing. The process to stop billing is exhausting. After more than 40 hours of follow-up, ATT finally accepted that Bea no longer was alive and could not be a customer and as of July 3rd stopped billing. This date is almost two months after her death and $162 in charges. Did you know that calling ATT (a phone company) with information is insufficient? You must go to the store in person. Did you know that only certain stores are able to discontinue service? My spouse found out the hard way after two different visits to two different stores. Did you know that even though we are an electronic society, and a death certificate could have been sent electronically, ATT requires a physical copy be shown to a person in the “correct” store? (How hypocritical and ironic is it that no form of electronic information (scan of fax of death certificate) is acceptable to a company that earns its revenues from electronic information dissemination.) This ATT person then calls the main office to speak to another ATT person – the same person we called in April who said we needed to go to a physical store – to verify that in fact said customer, Bea Colman, is no longer in need of services. The phone was unplugged soon after April 13th. This system, which mirrors other systems, pisses me off. They will not refund the charges for Bea even though they were notified soon after her passing.
How heartless is this company that makes it as hard as possible to manage the affairs of a deceased loved one during a delicate and grieving time of life? Maybe this was unusual. Or, maybe it was not. My skeptic says that companies operate this way because they can, and they are more concerned with the bottom line than the care of the soul.
I wish I could confidently say that the avalanche of greed can skillfully be met with an equally powerful force of outrage, and that I can trust the systems in our world to respond with love and humanity. I can’t. However, greed can be met in a different, less explicit way. With a unique force – like subtle Jedi invisible threads that link the hearts and minds of open courageous people.
This powerful force begins inside each of us. We must attend to the nuggets of our own scarcity (beliefs, behavior, patterns, emotions), which devolve our minds and drain our energy. Any sense of lack that tugs at your heart wants to be washed away in loving-kindness. Any smidgeon of doubt or fear or confusion, can be wrapped in a mantel of truth.
These practices allow for sufficiency to ignite and blossom. Embodied sufficiency arises in full measure when we attend to the bits and bobs held in a veil of scarcity.
We clean up this space for ourselves. My face on fire is a great reminder that my body is alive, generating the energy to ignite the fire and provide wisdom. My belief that companies will do the right thing, that ultimately they care about the people they serve, is naïve. My idiot compassion says, be polite, ladylike and nice. But, my face, my throat and my belly say, speak up and share these experiences. My body says living from the heart is a new operating system that begins with the individual. Companies will only respond when we are clear in our own experience and access the fire ignited by our bodies. We clean up our interior for the benefit of all. Because embodied sufficiency is wise and doesn’t allow murky fear to weaken truth and the force of greed is so insidious and heartless, that we meet greed with the most powerful antidote, Love. Love expressed with fire and power. My exploration and practices to clean up fear in all forms allows for clarity (Love) to emerge in this writing and in service to others.
Love is generosity in motion. Love embraces the space of lack, scarcity, and greed.
The energy of anger carries that love to wherever it is needed most.
Greed is not a frequent writing topic. Most of us do not inhabit that space and do not require that depth of attention. But the fire raging in my body offers wisdom, and I’m listening. Clean up your stuff. Clean up your sense of lack. Gain clarity about your sense of sufficiency. Repeat: “I am OK.” Feel that OK-ness to your bones. And then, get moving. How does the embodied sense of sufficiency catalyze your generosity?
Generously Hot! Wicked Pissed! Determined!
(1) A phrase coined by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and described by Pema Chodron, “It refers to something we all do a lot of and call it compassion. In some ways, it’s what’s called enabling. It’s the general tendency to give people what they want because you can’t bear to see them suffering.”