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My identity crisis

My identity crisis

Man looking agitated, holding his head in his hand.
Striving for success and perfection in order to feed my ego was taking its toll on my mind and body. (Photo by Shaun Murphy)

Donald Trump has been in the news a lot lately. He is running for President in 2016. Oy Vey! Although I disagree with many of his positions, I find him extremely entertaining. You would think that a multi-billionaire would have enough money to get a decent haircut. “The Donald” certainly is not lacking in ego and self-esteem. In fact, he has a skyscraper named after himself in New York. The “Trump Tower.”

I too have a tower named after myself. I call it the “Kenny Tower.” However, unlike Donald’s tower made of glass and steel my tower is just in my mind. I started building my tower about 60 years ago and I am still working on it. Each floor consists of a different identity. Once the floor is completed it then has to be decorated and furnished. Not just anything cheap, mind you. But the finest furnishings money can buy. It has to be the best. So, there has been the public school floor. The Hebrew school floor. The pre-med and medical school floors. The doctor floor. The skier, bicyclist and hiker floors. The environmentalist floor. Even for a few years the Christian floor. Mediocrity was unacceptable.

I had to be the best at whatever I did. Is it any wonder that happiness seemed to elude me and I suffered from stress, anxiety, and panic attacks for many years. When I first heard about duhkha four years ago I knew exactly what the Buddha was talking about. All my striving for success and perfection in order to feed my ego was taking its toll on my mind and body.

Given the fact that change and impermanence are inevitable most of my floors do not have a tenant at the present time. Even the doctor floor will be vacated next year once I retire. So what will I do then? What about a Buddhism floor? Could I become the world’s best Buddhist?

Somehow that seems like an oxymoron. My wife likes to remind me that I took a precept not to lie. Even those little white ones that I tell sometimes so as not to hurt someone’s feelings. Well, maybe I could distinguish myself as the world’s worst Buddhist. If I can’t be the best then why not be the worst? I guess that’s just another form of self-centered thought.

Buddhism does not really lend itself to my tower. I have a Buddhism floor but I can’t seem to find the right decorations and furnishings. So I am leaving it “empty.” Whenever I spend time on my Buddhism floor I get a sense of spaciousness, tranquility and clarity. Maybe it’s because I haven’t cluttered it with possessions, praise, reputation, or sense pleasures. The wind whips through it like a breath of fresh air. So, I am planning to hang out on my Buddhism floor for a good long time. Perhaps even into my next lifetime. I call it my penthouse suite because it has the best views in all ten directions.

Kenneth Mondal

Ken Mondal is a retired Ophthalmologist who lives in Spokane, Washington. He received his education at Temple University and University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and residency training at University of California-San Francisco. He practiced in Ohio, Washington and Hawaii. Ken met the Dharma in 2011 and attends teachings and retreats on a regular basis at Sravasti Abbey. He also loves to do volunteer work in the Abbey's beautiful forest.

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