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Lions Roar : July 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2012 65 and again throughout our day we can acknowledge what’s happening with a bit more gentleness and honesty. We then discover that patterns can change, which is another sign of progress. Having acknowledged what is happening, we may find that we can do something different from what we usually do. On the other hand, we may discover that (as peo- ple are always saying to me), “I see what I do, but I can’t stop it.” We might be able to acknowledge our emotions, but we still can’t refrain from yelling at somebody or laying a guilt trip on ourselves. But to acknowledge that we are doing all these things is in itself an enormous step; it is reversing a funda- mental, crippling ignorance. Seeing but not being able to stop can go on for quite a long time, but at some point we find that we can do something different. The main “something different” we can do begins with becoming aware of some kind of holding on or grasping—a hardness or tension. We can sense it in our minds and we can feel it in our bodies. Then, when we feel our bodies tighten, when we see our minds freeze, we can begin to soften and relax. This “something different” is quite do-able. It is not theoretical. Our mind is in a knot and we learn to relax by letting our thoughts go. Our body is in a knot and we learn to relax our body, too. Basically this is instruction on disown- ing—letting go and relaxing our grasping and fixation. At a fundamental level we can acknowledge hardening; at that point we can train in learning to soften. It might be that sometimes we can acknowledge but we can’t do anything else, and at other times we can both acknowledge and soften. This is an ongoing process: it’s not like we’re ever home free. However, the aspiration to open becomes a way of life. We discover a commitment to this way of life. This process has an exposed quality, an embarrassing quality. Through it our awareness of “imperfection” is height- ened. We see that we are discursive, that we are jealous, aggressive, or lustful. For example, when we wish to be kind, we become more aware of our selfishness. When we want to be generous, our stin- giness comes into focus. Acknowledging what is, with honesty and compassion; continually training in letting thoughts go and in softening when we are harden- ing—these are steps on the path of awak- ening. That’s how kleshas begin to dimin- ish. It is how we develop trust in the basic openness and kindness of our being. However, as I said, if we use diminishing klesha activity as a measure of progress, we are setting ourselves up for failure. As long as we experience strong emotions—even if we also experience peace—we will feel that we have failed. It is far more helpful to have as our goal becoming curious about what increases klesha activity and what dimin- ishes it, because this goal is fluid. It is a goal-less exploration that includes our so- called failures. As long as our orientation is toward perfection or success, we will never learn about unconditional friendship with ourselves, nor will we find compassion. We will just continue to buy into our old mindsets of right and wrong, becoming more solid and closed to life. When we train in letting go of thinking that anything—including ourselves—is either good or bad, we open our minds to practice with forgiveness and humor. And we practice opening to a compassionate space in which good/bad judgments can dissolve. We practice letting go of our idea of a “goal” and letting go of our concept of “progress,” because right there, in that process of letting go, is where our hearts open and soften—over and over again. ♦ PEMA CHÖDRÖN’s new book is Living Beautifully With Uncertainty and Change, coming in October from Shambhala Publications. PHOTOBYANDREAROTH