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Lions Roar : May 2006
We might be able to notice where somebody else is coming from before we engage in a knee-jerk response. We can see that her ag- gression is a result of the pain she is in. Depending on how prac- ticed we are, we might even be able to forgive that individual. I often hear, “Yes, I can extend compassion, except to So-and-So, who doesn’t deserve it.” We all have our list of people we exempt. But if we want to generate peace in the world, we cannot make exceptions. The way to extend compassion to all is to keep grow- ing peace in our own mind. Each moment of our day provides an opportunity to cultivate peace rather than anger and jealousy. In the beginning, our ability to rest in peace may last only a few minutes or hours. Bringing peace to the world seems impossible, like throwing a flower into a blazing fire, and we lose our motiva- tion. But rather than trying to change everything at once, we can work with changing a small percentage of our attitude for a small percentage of the day. We can get up in the morning and say, “With ten percent of my mind, I’m going to try peace instead of irrita- tion. With ten percent of my mind, I’m going to put others ahead of myself.” With the other ninety percent, we can still be speedy and annoyed. This approach is practical because it encourages us to notice how these smaller views overtake our bigger motivation. It encourages us to continually consider how we are engaging with the world. Pretty soon the small percentage of positive behavior begins to seep into our mind and the environment, multiplying exponentially, like perennials that keep the weeds from growing. The dignity that comes from meditation doesn’t involve putting on a face of charisma. It comes from claiming what is innately ours and letting it grow. Unlike aggression, the peace and com- passion we discover are sustainable, because these are the natural qualities of our mind. They make us fully human. A tiger doesn’t think it’s half zebra, but we become confused about who we are. Then we express our doubt by engaging in aggression, as if to say, “I’m not sure that I’m a complete human, with peace and compas- sion at the core of my being.” If we expect somebody else to create peace in the world, we’re going to be waiting for a long time. We’ll become even more an- gry or anxious, because our unmet expectations will bring frus- tration, disappointment, and inevitably, more instability. But if we can stabilize our motivation and learn to cultivate peace and compassion, our willingness to take responsibility for changing the environment will inspire many others. Although there are only a small number of people meditating, even on a global scale, if we have the inspiration and courage to say, “It’s up to me to bring peace,” our influence will be larger than our numbers. We’re all living here on planet Earth, and we’re not going anywhere soon. We should try to improve our situation. Conflict and aggression are ancient issues, and so is the dilemma of deal- ing with the mind. Like Buddha Shakyamuni, we can use what we discover in meditation to help the world move forward. ♦ This column is adapted from Sakyong Mipham’s address, given at Shambhala Mountain Center, to the Sit for Change Meditation Marathon 2005. For more in- formation, see www.sitforchange.org.