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Lions Roar : May 2018
LION’S ROAR | MAY 2018 56 It’s from this soft, inquisitive place that we begin to feel calm and safe in our bodies, creating conditions for aware- ness to arise. With awareness, we may then ask ourselves compassionately how we’d like to approach our difficult situ- ation or person. The invitation is similar when we’re trying to refrain from becoming difficult ourselves. When we’re difficult, we’re usu- ally afraid of something, often of becoming hurt by another. Instead of listening to our fears, we tense up and act out. In the very moment we notice ourselves preparing to attack, we can stop and create space by asking ourselves some heartfelt questions. In addition to those above, we may ask: What about this situation is setting me off? As my body tenses, can I breathe and stay with that feeling? Would it be possible to soften my heart, even just a little? As I ask these questions, what sensations arise? When we create space, we begin both to understand our own reactions and to consider another’s perspective and pain. We have greater presence, compassion, and care. Ultimately, by creating space in the midst of hardship and compassionately contemplating our suffering, we transform difficulty into awareness. It’s from this awareness, embodied by a tender, undefended heart, that helpful communication, both within us and between each other, will emanate. RAY BUCKNER practices in the Shambhala Buddhist community and has worked for organizations devoted to racial, religious, and sexual justice. 10 Vows Not to Make Things Difficult Who’s really making things difficult? asks Zen teacher KAREN MAEZEN MILLER. Here are ten ways to take care of your end. NOT LONG AGO my husband and I hiked a steep mountain trail near our home. It was difficult for me, so I hated it. It was easy for him, and so he enjoyed it. Beneath it all, the trail was just the trail. We walked the very same ground. What was different was how we judged it. Life is full of difficulties, which the Buddha called dukkha: things that are hard for us to handle. Sometimes those things are difficult people, and sometimes those things are difficult circumstances, but what we have to see is where the difficulty comes from. As long as we think the problem lies outside of us, nothing changes. We can rail against a person or situation with our anger or blame, but then, who’s being difficult? Buddhism gives us a straightforward answer in the ten grave precepts. Not to be confused with commandments, laws, rules, or ethical boundaries, the precepts simply show us how we make things difficult, and how we can make things less difficult by letting go of our egocentric views. The precepts have been reinterpreted in different ways with the intention to make them more understandable or relevant to modern times. In my Buddhist tradition, we still use the language that came from the first Chinese transla- tions of the earliest Buddhist texts. That’s where we find a not-so-subtle clue about how to discipline our behavior and transform difficulty into ease. I vow to refrain from killing. I vow to refrain from stealing. I vow to refrain from unchaste behavior. I vow to refrain from telling lies. I vow to refrain from being ignorant. I vow to refrain from talking about others’ faults or errors. I vow to refrain from elevating myself and blaming others. I vow to refrain from being stingy. I vow to refrain from being angry. I vow to refrain from speaking ill of the three treasures. At first glance, we may not see the clue. After all, we tell ourselves, we don’t kill, steal, or lie! We’re nice, not mean. We