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Lions Roar : March 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2011 52 But becoming a spiritual warrior does not start there. it must be- gin with the determination that you want to really know yourself completely and utterly, so that you don’t have any private rooms and nooks and crannies that you’re concealing. you can’t become a warrior who helps others to find themselves if you are not making that journey yourself. the journey needn’t be completed, but you must have started down the road of encountering your fear. once i was staying in close quarters with a friend who was re- ally angry at me. it was the equivalent of being trapped on a grey- hound bus for a couple of months together—me, my friend, her anger, and my feelings of inadequacy. i tried everything to get her to like me again, but she just became angrier and angrier until she refused to talk altogether. that’s one of the most uncomfort- able places to end up in with someone you are trying to get to like you again, because you’re getting nothing back. this situation intensi- fied to the point where i realized that my whole personality, everything i did, the whole way i related to people, was based entirely on avoiding feel- ing bad about myself. i strove to live behind a mask that others would love and would therefore cause me to love myself. that plan did not work. it was a powerful revelation to see that all my habits and approaches to life were coming from this deep hid- ing and avoidance. it was exhilarating in some way, but then i realized that my friend and i were still on the bus together, and work remained to be done. Life is like that. you have your insights, but the challenge remains. i had heard the phrases “uncon- ditional friendship” and “genuine heart of sadness” before, but at that point they began to make real sense to me. what produces a genuine person, i realized, is being open to not feeling okay. it means to be open to everything—to all the horrors as well as the beauties of life, to the whole extraordinary variety of life. i began to realize that this whole mess the human race is in—the fact that we don’t take care of the planet and we don’t take care of each other, the wars, the hatred, the fundamentalism—all actually come from running away. individually, collectively, we are trying to avoid feeling bad about ourselves. once you start to look at it this way, to smile a bit about this fear instead of letting it escalate, you realize that going about things this way is a bunch of bullshit. wait a minute here, you might think, what’s going on? seemingly, it’s just me. But me seems to be being pretty hard on me. what’s up with that? when i was stuck with my friend, i started to see behind it all. a smile crossed my face. if i allow myself to look at what hurts, i find a genuine, open heart. the business of avoiding who we are is a game that never needed to begin in the first place. that’s worth a smile. it was a very fortunate bus ride. ➢ page 90 This takeoff on the famous “Rosie the Riveter” poster from the Second World War delighted Pema Chödrön when it was given to her at the Smile at Fear teachings in Richmond, which is home to the Rosie the Riveter memorial. poster By noa kapLan-sears