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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Don’t Bite the Hook!

     There's an old Buddhist story about a fisherman who one night decided to take advantage of the beautiful early fall weather and took his boat out onto the river to float around and simply enjoy the serenity.

     He anchored his boat and lay back in it and relaxed simply staring at the thousands of stars in the sky above.

     As he enjoyed the evening, out of the corner of his eyes, he noticed another boat up the river in the distance. “Ahh” he thought “another boater out enjoying the night”.

     A half hour later he noticed the boat was moving closer. Wondering who might be in the boat he pondered it for a moment or two and then drifted off, lost in his thoughts.

     Fifteen minutes later he became aware the second boat was now much closer and seemed to be on a course aimed directly at him.

     In the dusk, he stood up and waved at the oncoming boater but there was no response.

     The oncoming boat was now only yards away. He began to shout at the oncoming boat, “Hey! . . . look out! . . . You’re going to hit me! . . . Stop your boat! . . . You idiot! . . . Stop your boat!, . . Put it in reverse!”

     His shouts were drowned out by the crashing of timbers as the oncoming boat slammed into his, throwing him into the water.

     Pulling himself out of the water and back into his damaged boat, he angrily climbed over the side of the traumatically merged vessels to take out his anger on the inconsiderate captain of the other boat.

     Once on the other boat, to his amazement, their were neither a captain or a crew.

     As the absurdity of his actions sunk in, the fisherman began to chuckle. His giggle quickly morphed into a full body belly laugh. Tears of relief and embarrassment filled his eyes. He had been screaming at an empty boat!

     The story serves as a metaphor for anger and frustration in our lives. When we scream and yell at the idiot who cuts us off on the Interstate or the corner store, we are yelling at an empty boat. The driver we are so angry at most often is oblivious of our presence. They do not hear our rants, or screams. An hour later they remain unaware of our very existence and yet an hour later our anger continues to haunt us. We're still pissed, we wish we had done this or that, or took a picture, or got up close to their bumper and taught them a lesson. Any one of which would have served only to reinforce our own anger.

     The other person is an "empty boat" not because they're stupid or a bad driver or insensitive but because yelling at them, getting angry at them serves no purpose fro use other than we make ourselves mad and suffer the consequences of "our actions". Our screaming does nothing to the "empty boat".

     In Karate we have a responsibility to improve ourselves; physically, spiritually and emotionally. Many times that "emotional improvement" refers to the difficult job of recognizing our emotional responses and being willing to accept our own responsibility in managing our feelings. It's hard to subscribe to "Karate ne sente nashi" when we are unable or unwilling to manage our own feelings. That's what growing up, maturing and achieving wisdom is all about.

     When we get angry are out; spouse, children, pets, boss, etc., we are again yelling at an empty boats. In every case we serve only to anger ourselves. We make ourselves angry and most of the time the empty boats go on their way oblivious of our anger.

      So the challenge is clear: Can YOU stop yelling at empty boats?

Cox Hakase

Buddhist folk tale adapted from the book
“Don’t Bite the Hook: Finding Freedom from Anger”
by Pema Chodron

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