I fell in…

I recently came out of retirement to earn some extra cash. Turns out it’s taking more funds than I bargained for to keep three cats in the manner to which they’ve become accustomed. So I found a great part-time job helping people affected by Autism and/or intellectual disabilities. I take them out into the community doing activities that they chose, and helping them work on skills that they have chosen. I often get paid for going walking, playing basketball (or trying to), or simply playing card games with my clients. While there are some frustrations, mostly with charting (my nemesis from medical days), it’s quite rewarding emotionally.

One of my clients has about ten songs that he likes to listen to. Over and over and over and over. His favorite is Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”. I think he would be content listening to it on repeat for the entire day. After my first week with him, I had to put limits on how many times we listened to it each day, as for days the song would worm its way into my ear and play over and over and over and over in my mind.

Did I mention “Ring of Fire” was one of my least favorite songs?

Not being a great fan of either country or mariachi music, I never cared for it. So when my client would listen to it, disliking arose. I would grit my teeth and think “Ugh. Again? Seriously? I wonder if he’d notice if I hid it from the playlist?”

After about the 50th time of listening to it, something clicked, and I realized that while I don’t think Johnny Cash had any Buddhist leanings, the song speaks plainly of burning with desire. The song points to the desire of a romantic relationship, but it could be the desire of anything.

“I fell into a burning ring of fire, I went down, down, down, and the flames went higher, and it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire, the ring of fire”

Compare that with the following from the Buddha’s fire sermon:

“The eye… is burning, forms are burning, eye consciousness is burning, eye contact is burning, the feeling that arises from eye contact, whether pleasant, painful, or neutral, that too is burning. With what is it burning? I declare that it is burning with the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion…”

The Buddha goes on to say the same about the ear/sounds, the nose/smells, the tongue/tastes, the body/felt objects, and the mind/thoughts. As I understand it, it’s that burning feeling when we’re really craving something (like wanting to hear a song again and again), or when we really dislike something (like having to hear that song again and again). It’s a sense of burning either way.

I started thinking about all the things that I get “burned” with. And when I’m being more aware, I can hear the song when I’m in the midst of really wanting (or not wanting) something.

And it burns, burns, burns…

And with that thought pattern, disliking subsided and liking arose. I’m not playing “Ring of Fire” over and over when I’m not with my client, but I’ve found that with a new mindset, hearing it is almost pleasant. And there’s certainly pleasure from seeing the smile on his face when he realizes I’ve hit the replay button.

Author: mettatsunami

In 2009 I was working full time in medicine, and living a life that was alienated from what I truly valued. While volunteering with a local hospice, I began to wonder: "What would I do differently if I had six months to live?". This began the impetus to change direction. While it has been a case of two steps forward, one step back in many ways, there has still been slow movement in the direction of a more authentic life. Since the pivotal decision to change direction, I have been a Buddhist nun, returned to lay life, changed Buddhist schools, returned to medicine part time, and then full time, quit again, traveled extensively, trained in yoga, spent time in several Buddhist monasteries, and am in the process of how to live according with Buddhist and yogic practice and values, and how to streamline this life into something worthwhile. In the Theravadan Buddhist practice, one of the daily reflections is "Has my practice born fruit with freedom or insight, so that at the end of my life, I need not feel ashamed when questioned by my spiritual companions?". That is my practice. My goal in this blog is to share the journey along the way.

15 thoughts on “I fell in…”

  1. Johnny cash was a secret Buddhist! Glad you are doing this work, I am sure you are good at it…. I am well, been working a lot but it was nice to save some money, did a lot of recording and hope to go to Mexico soon You take care Pablo

    Sent from my iPhone


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    1. A secret Buddhist, hahaha! I thought about you when I started this job – I seem to recall you were doing something similar when you weren’t on the road. Enjoy your trip! Are you using the kitchen spoon of Dukkha now?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Can’t stand country western music, which is strange as I grew up listening to it in Greeley, Colorado. I understand your having to change your mindset, because I have had to do that about the new lawn in my back yard. Long story but it took all summer to kill the devil grass, dig out and remove the top six inches of dirt and roots, bring in a dump truck of top soil, spread and level it, plant and fence off while the new grass got established. Now that the new grass has been mowed several times, I took down the fence. Both my Shepherd and my small terrier immediately started digging holes. Each time I would find a new hole, I would point to it and yell at the dogs. It was really stressing me out. I finally knew I had to change my mindset and remember why I had to install a new lawn. It was because the devil grass had gotten so lush and thick that I couldn’t mow it with the electric mower. Bought a new gas powered mower only to discover it had the same problem. I had to decide that the yard was for the dogs and it was their grass more than mine. So I no longer stress over each new hole.

    Sent from my iPhone


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    1. There are certain things that I repeat as well. I have really enjoyed working with others on the spectrum. In some cases I feel a bit like the lame leading the blind, since (although still undiagnosed) I deeply suspect I am as well. It’s been great to see some of my own patterns and learn how to help others when I can.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautifully written and profoundly meaningful piece!! The way you have woven your lived experience into the Buddha’s teaching is genius. And the message – it burns, burns, burns…

    Liked by 1 person

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