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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

Whose is it?

I was listening to a Wayne Dyer audio book on my walk this morning. Don't ask me which one. I've got a bunch of them stored up on my phone for listening. I don't agree with everything he said, but he was really good at teaching intentionality and being in the moment.

Today, he talked about a story about the Buddha. I have no idea if the story is true or when it supposedly happened. Doesn't matter. The point is entirely relevant. I will paraphrase it as best as I can since I can't seem to find any sources in complete agreement with exact quotes or anything factually substantial. This is approximately what happened:

The Buddha was sitting under a tree teaching when a young man decided the Buddha was not qualified. He became angry and began saying unkind things to the Buddha telling him to stop, that he had not the authority to teach what he was teaching. The Buddha ignored him and continued for some time. The man did not stop speaking out in anger, even cursing the Buddha.

Finally, the Buddha asked the young man a question. "If a person gives another person a gift but the gift is not accepted, to whom does the gift belong?"

The young man thought a moment and said, "I suppose it belongs to the giver of the gift."

"Correct," replied the Buddha. "You have given me the gift of your anger, but I refuse to accept it. Therefore, it belongs to you."

After that, the young man remained quiet.

Wayne Dyer talked about this story in the context of not taking things personally. We all have the right to choose how we respond to someone who is angry and lashing out. I have been working on learning that I have the choice to take offense or not. An argument requires at least two people to take part. If one chooses to not accept the challenge, i.e. chooses not to take it personally or get insulted or angry in return, there is no argument.

For some reason, we seem to have a greater anger issue in all of society lately. Everything is being taken personally. Some things should be. Such as incidents of a criminal nature, racism, discrimination, direct personal attacks. But other things shouldn't.

I think we try to read too much into another person's motives. "Why did she say that? She must hate me." Nope. Just having a bad day. Trying to read the mind of another person is always a recipe in disaster. Worse if the person expects you to read their mind. Um. Not possible.

I was having a discussion with someone recently I care for very much. Our communication hasn't been good for quite some time. I have been working very hard on improving it. I have even asked for time with this person to specifically work on our communication together. But, this person has refused, and seems to take offense at everything I say or do. Yet, at the same time, this person also seems to be working on it.

Our last interaction was going pretty well. As they left, this person said, "I am working on my communication."

At first, I appreciated this person conveyed to me that they are working on it. That is great! We all need to.

Later, I realized there is a failure of communication in that very statement.

Communicating with someone, anyone, is like playing tennis. Look at the picture of the tennis court. Imagine one single player attempting to have a match. Alone. It doesn't work. Someone has to be on the other side to lob the ball back. No interaction from another person, no game. No interaction from another person, no communication.

Working on communication alone, by yourself, is like one person playing tennis. Sure, you can hit the ball against a wall, but that only gets a person so far in growing in skills. And healthy communication is a skill. It's an art form. Two people playing tennis together is fun to watch.

It's what I love about baseball. I love watching the silent interaction between the pitcher and the catcher. They have to have communication, understanding, between the two of them, or the game is crap. They need agreement. They need respect. That requires working together.

Respect. That young man had no respect for the Buddha. The Buddha found a way to refuse the gift while remaining respectful to the young man. In the end, they had a healthy conversational interchange that left neither feeling personally attacked. The young man wasn't attacked, and the Buddha refused to feel attacked. That is the difference between reacting and responding. I want to know how to do that. I'm working on it.

Care to share your experience or ask a question? Shoot me an email at

Thanks for reading!



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