The Places That Scare You
A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
~ Pema Chodron, Chapter 7 Loving-Kindness
"Our Personal attempts to live humanely in this world are never wasted. Choosing to cultivate love rather than anger just might be what it takes to save the planet from extinction.
What is it that allows our goodwill to expand and our prejudice and anger to decrease? This is a significant question. Traditionally it is said that the root of aggression and suffering is ignorance. But what is it that we are ignoring? Entrenched in the tunnel vision of our personal concerns, what we ignore is our kinship with others. One reason we train as warrior-bodhisattvas is to recognise our interconnectedness--to grow in understanding that when we harm another, we are harming ourselves. So we train in recognizing our uptightness. We train in seeing that others are not so different from ourselves. We train in opening our hearts and minds in increasingly difficult situations.
For an aspiring bodhisattva, the essential practice is to cultivate maitri. In the Shambhala teachings this is called "placing our fearful mind in the cradle of loving-kindness..."
In cultivating loving-kindness, we train first to be honest, loving, and compassionate toward ourselves. Rather than nurturing self-denigration, we begin to cultivate a clear-seeing kindness. Sometimes we feel good and strong. Sometimes we feel inadequate and weak. But like mother love, maitri is unconditional. No matter how we feel, we can aspire to be happy. We can learn to act and think in ways that sow seeds of our future well-being, gradually becoming more aware of what causes happiness as well as what causes distress.
Without loving-kindness for ourselves, it is difficult, if not impossible, to genuinely feel it for others."
Rereading this for the 1000th time today I was struck by two thoughts. All this Buddhist stuff seems to always being with Self Love. I assume Self Love is actually (and ironically - given our narcissistic western society) the most difficult aspect of the whole philosophy. And that once you get authentic Self Love flowing, its like the head waters of a mountain stream. Compassion and peace and strength start there and tumble naturally down the mountain. But its not so easy to start is it?
And secondly I thought of my one sister who doesn't speak to me. I thought of how much we love each other. How similar we are and how different. And I suddenly wondered if her contempt for me is proportional to her self loathing. I mean this like physics. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. I think this is exactly why those sweet and fierce monks begin with Self Love. Haunting and circular, isn't it?
Two people have recently said to my face (meaning, not in this cyberworld) "Wow, I've been reading your blog. Its great. But its really personal." They both used the phrase, "like reading a journal." They both looked kind of stricken, really. Which is ok with me. I think of another, old dear friend who recently said to me, "Wow, you are the most open person I know." And I feel glad. I want to be open. I want to be known. I do cultivate fearlessness. Hear me Universe? I AM WORKING ON IT. GOT THAT? CALL OFF THE DOGS. I'M WORKING AS FAST AS I CAN. And I am putting it all here. Witness it or don't. The audience doesn't matter nearly so much as the intention. Just like with real love.