Thursday, 18 June 2009

The Squirrel Master

Tom over at Homeless Tom wrote a quite pertinent and interesting post entitled "Is hatefulness outside the realm of Buddhism?" Over the last few weeks I have seen myself, on both sides of the fence, how ignorance, anger and hate have and do propagate through the internet, from Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.

Tom writes;

"But we Buddhists know better than others that America's chutzpah is its Achilles' heel. The arrogance and creaturely neediness of Americans dams the way to happiness" then suggests "The easiest of it ought to be to embrace what seems hateful: to understand it and engage it."

I think Tom definitely hit the mark about conquering hate by embracing it to understand it. Hate is unfortunately inevitable, and we will all at some point in our lives experience both being on the receiving side of it or on the initiating side of it. It can even be argued that hate is the pinnacle expression of destructive human emotions; however, I don't see this as an entirely bad thing. Indeed, if we are mindful of ourselves, and how these types of negative and harmful emotions arise within our own minds, I think it can actually benefit our practice.

Carrying around hate is much like trying to physically hold an angry squirrel in your hand. Ok, yea thats silly, but hear me out....I know first hand that actually trying to hold an angry squirrel is one of the most unpleasant yet hilarious experiences a person can endure. It was brutally hot that Sunday afternoon in July 18 years ago, and the squirrel looked so cute, furry and innocent, so being the teenager I was I took the unfortunate decision that I wanted to hold him. In not one of my more brilliant moments as a member of an advanced animal species I reached down and picked him up like I was picking a flower from a plant. The squirrel obviously startled, proceeded to immediately chomp down into my hand and violently flail about with his claws, trying desperately to get away. My brother, both amused and worried, shouted at me, "Why are you holding that squirrel?" In the chaos of the moment, with the blood and the fur and the squirrel teeth and the little mini claws flashing about me like some slow motion epic battle scene, all I could utter were the words "Fucker bit me!" Despite his unrelenting assault on my arms, hands and face, I sensed I was engaged in a mortal struggle of man vs. squirrel and for some egotistical (i.e. stupid) reason I just wouldn't let go. When I finally had enough and let him go, my brother said I looked like I was attacked by an army of extremely aggressive kittens.

Although extremely humorous now, I had let my pride and ego speak louder than my good judgment and common sense, hence I got my ass kicked by a squirrel. Many times I think we fail to make the connection between hate or other powerful emotions and our own suffering; preoccupying our thoughts and mind with this protection of ego and pride. This is where our knowledge and practice of Buddhism can help us identify the root of hate and understand the nature of attaching to such painful thoughts and emotions. When we make an effort to understand how confusion and suffering arise within ourselves, we can begin to see the beauty of the practice of mindfulness and meditation. It is in this moment, this magical and beautiful moment, when we bring ourselves back to this moment that we can fully understand the connection between mind and suffering, self and dukkha. While we shouldn't celebrate such destructive thoughts, when they do occur they can certainly be embraced to enhance the understanding of ourselves and our place within this world. In that moment of understanding we may be able to finally see the significance of non-attachment and find true freedom of mind.

(And freedom of squirrel of course.)

"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned."~Buddha


  1. That is the best illustration I have heard in a long time! I will keep that one in my back pocket, definitely.

    It's also interesting how when you hold on to this anger, be it a hot coal or an angry squirrel, the suffering you cause yourself is often blamed on the other person as well. Vicious cycle...

  2. "Let go of the squirrel" is going to be one of my catch phrases from now on.

    I'm just going to have to train people I know in its meaning by having them read this blogpost.

    Excellent and mighty hilarious blogpost, Kyle.

  3. Ever go to a grocery store on a busy Saturday? I used to get upset by everyone in my way, when someone reminded me of how I was part of the problem too.

    Very funny post - hopefully I'll learn to let go of my wild squirrels too!