Dear Still Water Friends,
Recently, I was talking with a friend who was discouraged and depressed about her life. She’s felt trapped in a difficult dynamic with coworkers. Over the years, I’ve listened with frustrated helplessness as she repeated stories about them. When I have offered advice, my friend has become defensive and has felt misunderstood. I’ve wondered how to be less judgmental of what seems to me to be paralysis when faced with these challenges.
In my search for support, I found an unexpected source of help in an article called “The Paramitas as the Path of True Love” by Dharma Teacher Joanne Friday from the June 2014 issue of The Mindfulness Bell. She writes:
The paramitas are the qualities that we need to cultivate in order to go from the shore of suffering to the shore of freedom. In The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, Thay tells us that the Buddha said, “Don’t just hope for the other shore to come to you. If you want to cross over to the other shore, the shore of safety, well-being, non-fear, and non-anger, you have to swim or row across. You have to make an effort.” …
The paramita on patience or inclusiveness is a deep teaching on love. Thay tells us that when we practice inclusiveness, we accept a difficult person exactly as he is, without any expectation that he will ever change. This can create enough spaciousness for him to change if he chooses. We can use this practice with ourselves, as we are frequently our most difficult person. When we can accept ourselves, without stories about who we should be or regrets about what we have not done, we are suddenly free to simply experience life in the moment and respond to life as it is and as we are. This makes it easier for us to do the same for others. The energy of acceptance is deeply felt. If in the past I held on to a judgment or opinion about another person, it was felt and she was defensive.
When I can truly accept someone, wholeheartedly, just as she is, it is also felt. There is no need for defensiveness to arise, and real intimacy is possible. What a wonderful gift!
Since reading this, I’ve spent time looking deeply into my judging of my friend, breathing into and being with my emotional response, and noticing where frustration lives in my body. I’m observing how, like my friend, I am self-conscious and defensive about my own persistently stuck areas. I can feel my inner child get upset at the thought of other people judging me. This burden of judgment weighs on my heart and saps my energy.
Now, as I turn toward my friend in my mind, I feel a deeper sense of closeness, of loving kindness for both her suffering and my own. I have no idea how I will express this change to her, but I am delighted at the shift!
This Thursday night, after our meditation, we will explore how we work with our judgements of ourselves and others. Are the Buddhist virtues of patience and inclusiveness helpful as a guide to being with our judging of ourselves and others?
You are warmly invited to join us!
An excerpt by Mitchell Ratner on the Paramita of Kshanti is below.
Growing our Hearts
By Mitchell Ratner from the April 7, 2011, Still Water weekly announcement
Growing our hearts, kshanti, is the third of the Six Paramitas offered in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. The Six Paramitas are concrete ways of practicing that help us move from suffering toward peace, contentment, and freedom.
Kshanti is often translated as patience or forbearance, in the sense of willingness to wait or tolerating frustration. Thich Nhat Hanh prefers to translate kshanti as inclusiveness, which he defines in The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching as “the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform.” Kshanti/inclusiveness goes beyond putting up with something. We can learn to reframe the frustration or irritation. Thich Nhat Hanh explains:
When we practice inclusiveness, we don’t have to suffer or forbear, even when we have to embrace suffering and injustice. The other person says or does something that makes us angry. He inflicts on us some kind of injustice. But if our heart is large enough, we don’t suffer.
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