DZOGCHEN PONLOP RINPOCHE
When you’re in risky emotional territory, there’s nothing more important than being kind to yourself. True kindness is always welcome. You can count on it to bring positive results—a frown instantly becomes a smile. Being kind is like being polite in the best sense of the word. It’s how we act to make another person feel comfortable, at home, and fundamentally respected. It’s sincere and heartfelt, merciful and gracious. When you’re engaged in a challenging project like working with your difficult emotions, remember to show yourself a little kindness, too.
That means having some sympathy and appreciation for your day-to-day life and struggles. It means giving yourself a break while you’re trying your best to change the way that you deal with your emotions. If you’re still approaching your emotions like enemies on a battlefield, how will you be able to appreciate their creative play or discover their wisdom? What you’re doing here is simple, but it isn’t going to be easy. It’s going to take a lot of effort over time. So you can acknowledge your willingness to go for it, to stick with it. You can give yourself a pat on the back. The whole process will work much better if you relax and take it easy.
When you think about it, kindness is always relaxed. Of course, there are exceptions. There are times when the kindest thing we can do is help someone face an uncomfortable truth. Or look in the mirror and face our own reflection without blinders. Kindness is not always about saying yes or giving out compliments. But in whatever way it’s expressed, kindness never undermines or denigrates. Its message is always Whatever you’re going through right now, it’s all right to be you—to be who you are.
From Emotional Rescue: How to Work with Your Emotions to Transform Hurt and Confusion into Energy That Empowers You, © 2016 Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. Reprinted with permission of TarcherPerigee/Penguin, a division of Penguin Random House. Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche is a Tibetan Buddhist teacher and scholar in the Nyingma and Kagyu lineages.
I circle back again and again to the gap between who we are and who we want to be—and how to open wisely, fruitfully, to it. I’m helped by a gentle notion from Buddhist psychology, that there are “near enemies” to every great virtue—reactions that come from a place of care in us, and which feel right and good, but which subtly take us down an ineffectual path. Sorrow is a near enemy to compassion and love. It is born of sensitivity and feels like empathy. But it can paralyze and turn us back inside with a sense that we can’t possibly make a difference. The wise Buddhist anthropologist and teacher Roshi Joan Halifax calls this a “pathological empathy” of our age. In the face of magnitudes of pain in the world that come to us in pictures immediate and raw, many of us care too much and see no evident place for our care to go. But compassion goes about finding the work that can be done. Love can’t help but stay present.
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