On tainted pleasures

meditating buddha by mikes photosWe practise together as a community at 8 a.m. on weekdays, and this morning I watched my colleague Dayamay get up from his meditation a few minutes after 8 to light the candles.

Dayamay is usually our bell-master, and it is the job of the bell-master to prepare the shrine room. This includes lighting the candles before people come in. I felt a flush of feeling – a mixture of disapproval (he forgot to do the candles!) and the smallest smidgen of pleasure.

I am familiar with this variety of pleasure. It is the part of me that enjoys it when other people get things wrong.

Sharing this with you elicits another feeling – shame. And this is exactly what I felt earlier too, just after the pleasure, when I realised that it was Wednesday, and that it was my turn to be bell-master and light the candles. Dayamay was covering for my ineptitude! In the blink of an eye my smugness shrivelled into embarrassment. I mouthed ‘I forgot!’ to Dayamay sheepishly, who gave me a shrug of ‘no problem!’

This sort of smug pleasure is always one pin-prick away from shame, because this is what the pleasure is covering over: a fear that we are not good enough. There is no need for us to feel superior if we have nothing to protect ourselves from. We just look at the other as an equal, whoever they are, and think, ‘yes, that’s how it is to be human.’

This morning I am going to welcome the part of me that felt this pleasure, and give it a hug. When I feel tainted pleasures of all varieties – the pleasure of punishing myself, the pleasure of sneaking the biggest slice of cake, the pleasures of compulsions – I will see them as signposts to something in me which is unhealed. When it’s too much to accept these parts myself, I’ll offer them up to the Buddha, who will accept them just as they are.

What tainted pleasures are you prone to feel? What would happen if you deflated them and saw what was underneath? How can you offer compassion to these parts of yourself?

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Photo by Mikes Photos via Pexel with thanks.