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Lions Roar : March 2013
Just as the body is a vehicle of awakening, the dharma can, as Lee discovers, be a healing balm. But what if we hate our body? What if our body is too fat or too thin or too saggy or too...? I suffered in my twenties from comparison, judgment, and perfectionism, and my body was not excluded. When I found Vipassana meditation at twenty-two, I was overjoyed to find that I could concentrate my mind and attain some peace from my periodic bouts of self-hatred. This liberation by seeing through thoughts and emotions, by opening to more and more beautiful states of concentration and understanding, has brought a deeper joy than I’d have ever imagined. But things would have to crash first, as they did some ten years after my discov- ery of Vipassana. I was in the midst of a yearlong retreat in the Burmese jungle and came face to face with my belief in my own unworthiness, a belief that I had so carefully pushed away through my medita- tion practice. If you’re serious about practice, at some point that which needs tending to will emerge. My unworthiness demons arose in full force. The horror of seeing my desperately cultivated emptiness practice fall apart, in combination with unbearable emotions, brought me to a crossroads. I could quit, head to Thailand to numb out on the beach, or face it and try to heal. What I had to find was my own self-compassion. And this is ultimately what healed Cyndi Lee. Self-compassion, as defined by scientist Kristin Neff, involves mindfulness, compassion practices, and the recognition of our shared humanity. Neff writes, “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcom- ings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings—after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?” In Burma I spent hour after hour in intensive self-directed loving-kindness and compassion practices. Vipassana went to the wayside. This was coupled with the understanding that my inherent nature was not flawed or something I had to get out of. Just as the body is a vehicle of awakening, the dharma can be a healing balm. But what if we hate our body? Cyndi Lee SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 80