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Lions Roar : March 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2011 50 gentleness and kindness, and it takes a lot of guts to do this. if you’ve tried it, you know how difficult it can be to stay present when you begin to fear what you see. if you do stay present with what you see when you look at your- self again and again, you begin to develop a deeper friendship with yourself. it’s a complete friendship, because you are not leaving out the parts that are painful to be with. it’s the same way you would develop a complete friendship with another person. you include all that they are. when you develop this complete friendship with yourself, the parts you’re embarrassed about—as well as the parts you’re proud of—manifest as genuineness. a genuine person is a person who is not hiding anything, who is not conning themselves. a genuine person doesn’t put up masks and shields. we know what it’s like to look at someone and feel we are just seeing their mask, that we’re not really seeing their genuine heart, their genuine mind. their speed or their laziness, their fear, takes the form of a mask. they hide behind their roadrunner or couch potato persona. But when someone is present for all of their un- certainties, for the scary places within, they become genuine, and once in my small retreat cabin, when i was feeling uncertain and anxious, i looked at the experience. i was like a ping-pong ball bouncing around. there are only two rooms in this cabin, but there i was bouncing around from one room to the other, starting something and then not even halfway through it, bounc- ing over to something else. i was all by myself in the wilderness and yet i was filling the space with all of this frantic activity. as i’ve talked about this experience with people, many of them share their experiences of how a basic level of nervousness causes them to speed around even in their own homes, bouncing from room to room and task to task and never quite finishing any- thing. people talk about going back and forth between one thing and another, emailing and calling people on the phone. they start projects that get half done at best, and they rush all over the place, complaining the whole time about how much they have to do. But, in fact, the most threatening thing would be having nothing to do. Lazy is the other way to go. it is the opposite of speed, and yet these two seeming opposites are both about the same thing: avoid- ing being present with our fear of uncertainty. in the case of lazi- ness, you become completely paralyzed. you can’t get yourself to do anything because the underlying uncertainty and nervousness is so great. you procrastinate. you feel unworthy. the laziness has a frozen quality. you don’t move. you become a couch potato, or you spend hour after hour on the computer, not as a form of speediness but just distracting yourself, trying not to feel what’s underneath what you’re feeling, trying to avoid touching the uncertainty and uneasi- ness. and yet in the background, it dominates your life. what Chögyam trungpa rinpoche taught about the underly- ing, fundamental uncertainty—which scientific tests now prove is more frightening to us than physical pain—is that the very basis of the fear itself is doubting ourselves, not trusting ourselves. you could also say it is not loving ourselves, not respecting ourselves. in a nutshell, you feel bad about who you are. so the very first step, and perhaps the hardest, is developing an unconditional friendship with oneself. developing unconditional friendship means taking the very scary step of getting to know yourself. it means being willing to look at yourself clearly and to stay with yourself when you want to shut down. it means keeping your heart open when you feel that what you see in yourself is just too embarrassing, too pain- ful, too unpleasant, too hateful. the hallmark of this training in spiritual warriorship, in the bodhisattva path, is cultivating bravery. with such bravery you could go anywhere on the earth and be of help to other people because you wouldn’t shut down on them. you would be right there with them for whatever they were going through. But the first step along this path is looking at yourself with a feeling of