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.
From Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living, © 2016 Krista Tippett. Reprinted with permission of Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group, a Penguin Random House Company. Krista Tippett is the creator and host of the podcast On Being.
When your dharma eye opens, you will see: sweeping away the burnt incense offerings is itself Buddha work.
From Great Doubt: Practicing Zen in the World, translated and introduced by Jeff Shore. © 2016. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications, www.wisdompubs.org. Boshan was a Chan (Chinese Zen) master of the late Ming dynasty.
Grace is the label I give a phenomenon where something from outside of me gets inside me, often despite me, and that points me toward beauty, goodness, and wisdom. . . .
Grace isn’t always a dramatic event. It may be spotting a tiny Goldcrest with his streak-of-sunshine cap as we wander aimlessly in the garden, consumed with our petty resentments. It may be that as we struggle with a particular relationship we hear a new author’s name in several different places, and on buying their book discover exactly what we need to approach the relationship differently. It may be a strange feeling of security or shivers of joy that appear as we step into a cathedral.
Receiving grace is always a good thing. It always leaves me lighter, less confused or hopeless and more full of faith. In my experience, having the word “grace” in my vocabulary encourages me to be more open to more of these kinds of things happening again. It helps me to be open to the things I’m not paying attention to, and to broaden the potential field from where grace might come.
From Just As You Are: Buddhism for Foolish Beings, 2015. Reprinted with permission of Woodsmoke Press. Satya Robyn and the book’s coauthor, Kaspalita Thompson, are psychotherapists and Pure Land Buddhist priests with the Order of Amida Buddha. Husband and wife, they live in England.
DINTY W. MOORE
Human beings waste vast energies attempting to stave off the inevitable, trying to pretend that the world will never change, that what we build—cities, governments, fortunes, our relationships with others—can be made to stay exactly as they are, pristine and untouched by decay.
Humans sometimes seem to be in full denial mode, especially about the one truth, which is that we all die eventually. Everyone. No exceptions. If we really acknowledged this fact, maybe we wouldn’t waste so much of our time here on the planet consuming mindlessly, spinning on our wheels, prolonging petty battles.
If you knew you were dying, to what project would you choose to devote your efforts, each and every day that you had left?
Well, you are dying, not soon hopefully, but eventually. So what should you be doing?
From The Mindful Writer, 2016. Reprinted with permission of Wisdom Publications, www.wisdompubs.org. Dinty W. Moore is an award-winning essayist and writer.
ORGYEN CHOWANG RINPOCHE
Social anxiety comes from being focused on “how we are doing” in this world. We are constantly judging our own performance and others’ treatment of us. For example, if we are preoccupied with what other people feel about us, we raise questions: “What are other people thinking? I hope they like me. What are they saying about me behind my back? What do they really think of me?” It’s these concerns that we project onto others that compound our social anxiety.
If we examine ourselves honestly, we will see that we are constantly making many, many judgments moment by moment. We judge both ourselves and other people. This process influences the way we treat others and, as a result, the way they treat us. Other people perceive the discomfort in us, so they feel even more uncomfortable than they already were from their own social anxiety. Cues go back and forth based on this mutual anxiety and, depending on the degree of anxiety, it can become awkward and stressful. Then we can become even more uncomfortable and more judgmental toward ourselves and others.
If all your attention is on these agitated thoughts, then even if everybody around you appreciates you and says how much they like you, you may not believe it. But when you are in a pristine state of mind, you have fewer thoughts, and thus less anxiety and fear, because all those uncomfortable experiences come from your thoughts; and without thoughts they can’t survive. Then it doesn’t matter what people think of you; even if everybody around you hates you, it doesn’t affect you. You are comfortable with yourself. Even if everyone glares at you angrily and criticizes you, if you pay no attention to your own thoughts, you remain comfortable and as stable as a mountain. You are completely at ease with yourself.
From Our Pristine Mind: A Practical Guide to Unconditional Happiness, © 2016 Orgyen Chowang. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications, www.shambhala.com. Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche is a meditation master in the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. Watch a dharma talk from Rinpoche on this topic in June on tricycle.org.
Then, early in the morning, Soma the nun adjusted her robes and, taking her bowl and outer robe, went into Savatthi for alms. When she had gone for alms in Savatthi and had returned from her alms round, after her meal she went to the Grove of the Blind to spend the day. Having gone deep into the Grove of the Blind, she sat down at the foot of a tree for the day’s abiding.
Then Mara the Evil One, wanting to arouse fear, horripilation [gooseflesh], and terror in her, wanting to make her fall away from seclusion, approached her and addressed her in verse:
to be attained by seers
—the place so very hard to reach—
—with their two-inch discernment—
Then the thought occurred to Soma the nun: “Now who has recited this verse—a human being or a non-human one?” Then it occurred to her: “This is Mara the Evil One who has recited this verse wanting to arouse fear, horripilation, and terror in me, wanting to make me fall away from concentration.”
Then, having understood that “This is Mara the Evil One,” she replied to him in verses:
does being a woman make
when the mind’s well-centered,
when knowledge is progressing,
seeing clearly, rightly,
into the dhamma.
Anyone who thinks
“I’m a woman”
or “a man”
or “Am I anything at all?”—
that’s who Mara’s
fit to address.
Then Mara the Evil One—sad and dejected at realizing, “Soma the nun knows me”—vanished right there.
Samyutta Nikaya 5.2, “Sister Soma.” Translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff), from Handful of Leaves, 3; An Anthology from the Samyutta Nikaya, rev. ed., 2015. Thanissaro Bhikkhu is a Thai forest monk and the abbot of Metta Forest Monastery in Valley Center, California.
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