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Lions Roar : September 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2011 54 possible that it will dawn on you that you aren’t going to find fulfillment purely by changing things outside of yourself, or even by changing some- thing in yourself. If you have an inkling that there is something ultimately futile in your search for ultimate satisfaction, then it may occur to you that you need to make friends with your life as it is and with yourself as you are. This kind of friendship is based on openness, honesty, and acceptance. It is about unconditional friendship. Unconditional friendship with ourselves ulti- mately affects our friendships with others, allow- ing us to open genuinely to them. But it begins by unlocking warmth and tenderness in ourselves, for ourselves. A friendship with yourself that is without condi- tions means that you are truly comfortable in your own skin, regardless of the circumstances. A lot of the time, you might feel that you’re already com- fortable with yourself. What happens, though, if you’re left alone in a room for a long time, with no phone, nothing to read and nothing to do, and no idea when you might get out of there? Maybe you begin to realize that you’re not comfortable being with yourself. You may feel anxious, frightened, or irritated; you may fall asleep or go a little bonkers. There is an analogy often used in the Buddhist tra- dition of the experience of ego being like a monkey caught in an empty house. The egomaniacal mon- key is almost literally bouncing off the walls, feel- ing hemmed in, and trying to get out. He thinks he’s a prisoner in the house and has no idea that he’s created this prison. He also has no idea that he’s really okay, just as he is. You and I may not be so different from Mr. Mon- key. We spend a lot of time in our lives trying to be sure we don’t get stuck or trying to get unstuck. We try to make sure that we don’t end up alone in that empty room, metaphorically speaking. We fill up the space with activities, appointments, fantasies, ambitions, projects. Especially in this speedy, wired world of ours, we’re uncomfortable with too much space or silence. Many of us thoroughly modern monkeys have a smart phone, high-speed internet, and a tablet com- puter. With so many gadgets and things to google, simplicity may not seem like much of a virtue. But making friends with yourself isn’t about being a Luddite monkey. We live in the world as it is, and it includes technology and devices. That said, making friends with yourself is about creating some space in life, allowing yourself to settle down in that empty space and see what comes up. It is the recognition that we are already familiar with that vacant room— that it’s a natural environment rather than some- thing imposed on us, and it’s a good place to begin. It may sound, at first, off-putting or quite boring to settle down with yourself without any entertain- ment. However, it is worthwhile, for despite all the entertainment, promotions, and bling she can get, the monkey is still lonely. She’s a very sad little monkey, when it comes right down to it. She would like to have some real contact with the world, maybe even a mate. It may seem like she’s totally in touch with the world, given all that paraphernalia and all those things to do. But the monkey somehow still feels empty and alone. In this situation, you might ask yourself, “I don’t just want to text my mate, do I? Don’t I want to actually kiss my mate? But how am I going to truly befriend someone else if I don’t befriend myself first?” What is it you want to change? Your hair, your face, your body? Why? For God is in love with all those things and He might weep when they are gone. — S T. CATHERINE OF SIENA From the Penguin anthology Love Poems from God. © 2002 by Daniel Ladinsky. Used with his permission. CAROLYN ROSE GIMIAN is a freelance editor and writer who has edited many of Chögyam Trungpa’s books, including Smile at Fear. Gimian’s proverbial bananas are 2-percent, half-caf, single-source lattes, served with extra foam and sugar-free caramel agave syrup.