Ping and Bong

Over New Year's, my wife and I spent five days away, alone with each other. We had just come through a time of intense strain, and we had been arguing a lot. In our retreat, we blended silence and meditation with time to talk things through. That time gave birth to a new ritual, a small ritual that has become very precious. Because Kris and I were meditating more, we were very sensitive to the emotional flow of our conversations. We could both tell when one of us was feeling off-balance, or when the conversation was treading on thin ice, ready to crack and bathe us in icy anger. If we had had a bell with us, this would have been the perfect time to ring it and breathe.

We did not have a bell. But once, I simply said "Ping!" I said it loud and let it resonate. We each took three breaths, laughed, and continued our conversation free of the heavy burdens that had been building up. We both began to say "Ping." It became a gift from each of us to the conversation, lightening difficult issues.

Kris and I argue so much as we struggle to find the balance between expressing our anger and pain, and silently repressing our feelings (which results in us feeling stifled and oppressed). When we listen to each other, we experience the struggle between allowing the other to freely express feelings, and insisting on the right to be treated with respect. It is here where Ping's brother Bong came to our aid.

One time, I got angry. I felt I had to say something that I knew might be hurtful to Kris. Ping didn't seem right so, I said what I felt, but followed it with a deep and resounding "Bong" We both laughed and understood.

We use "Ping" when the conversation is difficult for both of us, or when we feel the other person has stepped too far, and we need breathing space. We use "Bong" when we see that we ourselves have overstepped. The ritual has no accusatory form. We do not distinguish between "this is difficult for me," and "I feel that was unfair of you." In the past, accusing the other of being unfair has only escalated our arguments. Peace comes much more quickly when we seek harmony rather than victory.

Use of the ritual requires some care, for it is important not to let simply saying "Bong" become an excuse to plan nasty verbal attacks. It is very important to really and fully take three breaths with the gatha.

Sid Kemp New York, New York

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