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Lions Roar : January 2015
Second, there is a gap in which you experience the openness of tathagatagarbha, or buddhanature. Third, there is a sense of communication—having already woken up at that level, there is a sense of freedom to expand and to relate with your actions, whatever you are doing. That seems to be how to develop compassion. 5 Baby Steps to Kindness The path of compassion, says JUdy LIef, starts with step- ping out of your usual storyline. Here are five ways to do it. it is aMazinG how often we think we are out in the world interacting with and helping others, when actually we are sim- ply acting out our preconceived internal storyline. Our vision is clouded and we can only take in what feeds into our plot line. One way to soften this pattern is by exploring some basic steps that can lead us in the direction of kindness. Instead of trying to will ourselves to be kind—presto!—we can create an atmosphere congenial to the development of loving-kindness. Here are five small steps to kindness you can practice. You can explore these steps singularly or in combination. The idea is that if you create the right atmosphere, compassion naturally arises. It is already present, just waiting for your invitation. 1. Settle down There has to be a here to be a there, and a connection between the two. So the first step is to slow down and let your mind settle enough that you are able to drop from the heights of con- ceptuality back into your body, a simple form in space. Can you really feel present, in your body as it is, right where you are? 2. Be in the Moment Now that you are more solidly somewhere, you can let yourself be more clearly sometime. When your thoughts drift from the past or the future, from memories and regrets to plans and dreams, you can gently bring yourself back to the present moment. 3. drop escape Routes Stay put in this particular place and time, just the way it is. 4. pay attention to Space Notice the quality of space within you and around you. Pay attention to the boundaries of your physical body and the space in front, behind, and on each side of you. Also pay attention to the mental–emotional space that accommodates the com- ings and goings of sensations, thoughts, moods, and emotional upheavals. Whatever arises on an outer or inner level, notice the space in which both you and your perception rest. 5. Share the Space Explore what it is like to share this space with whoever is there with you. Notice the power of accommodation, acceptance, and nonjudging. When you sense the arising of territoriality and fear, accommodate that too in greater spaciousness. You Deserve Compassion Too Compassion makes no distinction between self and other, says CHRISTIna feLdMan. Care for your own suffering in the same way you care for others’. soMe people, carrying long histories of a lack of self-worth or denial, find it difficult to extend compassion toward them- selves. Aware of the vast suffering in the world, they may feel it is self-indulgent to care for their own aching body, broken heart, or confused mind. Yet this too is suffering, and genuine compassion makes no distinction between self and other. The Buddha once said that you could search the whole world and not find anyone more deserving of your love and compas- sion than yourself. Yet too many people find themselves direct- ing levels of harshness, demand, and judgment inward that they would never dream of directing toward another person, know- ing the harm that would be incurred. They are willing to do to themselves what they would not do to others. The path of compassion is altruistic but not idealistic. Walk- ing this path we are not asked to lay down our life, find a solu- tion for all of the struggles in this world, or immediately rescue all beings. The path of compassion is cultivated one step and one moment at a time. Each of those steps lessens mountains of sorrow in the world. The Buddha’s Love THICH nHaT HanH describes how love for one person becomes love for all. Question: More than anything else, we want to love and be loved. Why do we find it so difficult to love? Thich nhat hanh: Love is the capacity to take care, to protect, to nourish. If you are not capable of generating that kind of energy toward yourself, it is very difficult to take care of another person. In the Buddhist teaching, it’s clear that to love oneself is the foundation of the love of other people. Love is a practice. Love is truly a practice. SHAMBHALA SUN jANUAry 2015 48