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Lions Roar : March 2013
(Contrast that with my Theravadin teacher’s daily exhortations to purify my impure nature and get out of samsara immediately.) Instead, I realized that my inherent nature was one of radiance and utter goodness. By connecting with this, everything shifted, in particular my sense of unworthiness. By the time I left the monastery, that chapter had more or less ended. This unworthiness, the feeling that we are deeply flawed, lies at the heart of body hatred, and dharma practice can bring relief. Lee addresses this, sharing how hard she worked not to take those critical voices in her head so seriously: “That day at the snap of a finger I saw that I had gotten it wrong all those years. I was always getting mad at my body but, in fact, my body has been fine. It’s my relationship to my body that is hurting me and my mind that is the real troublemaker.” Through determined observation, we can learn to see self- critical voices as just that—voices and our stories arising in our head. We do not have to take them to be “me” or “mine.” I have taught this for years to students, particularly younger women who seem to suffer, on an almost epidemic level, from self-hatred (body and otherwise). Nonidentification is a basic understanding that comes from meditation, but it can be abso- lutely revolutionary when practiced, internalized, and enacted on the spot to counteract a voice that says, “I hate my thighs” or whatever is the self-loathing du jour. This observation, often helpfully enhanced by noticing what’s happening in our bodies in the midst of challenging thoughts, is complemented with the practice of self-directed metta. This was Lee’s magic bullet, but I don’t believe she gave the how of the practice the thoroughness it deserves. She simply describes how she learned to direct four metta phrases (“May you be safe / May you be happy / May you be healthy / May you live with ease”) not to others but to herself. And her self-hatred was transformed. My experience both practicing and teaching self-directed metta is that it’s much more nuanced than Lee describes. It can help, you may find, to slowly repeat metta-related phrases even if they’re in wordings that make sense only to you. It can take work to nail these down; this is more than the mere repetition of canned phrases. In my own practice, I invite creativity: some- times images come, sometimes I engage the practice for myself as a child. Always it is done slowly, with the emphasis on how it feels inside my body. Am I connecting with the feeling of metta? If so, I try to connect viscerally and let it be there and grow. If not—and this is key—I see what gets in the way of opening to more and more love. Usually it’s self-judgment and shame that flood my body, and these are fully revealed. Then I turn my mindfulness to it, tenderly bringing compassion. I say, “What- ever it is I’m feeling, may I hold this too in kindness.” With persistence, I’ve begun to chip away at my own per- ceived unloveabilty, my storehouse of metta has begun to grow, and the obstacles to feeling it have dissolved in a greater “ocean of metta.” This is how the practice works for me, and it’s how I teach it. Ultimately, it can transform the very fabric of our being. So why, if I had that big transformation in Burma in the late ’90s Exploring the Nature of Mind with Tsoknyi Rinpoche May 30 – June 6, Minneapolis, MN Tergar Practice Retreats West Coast Summer Retreat with Tim Olmsted July 19 – 25, Portland, OR Midwest Summer Retreat with Myoshin Kelley August 9 – 16, Marathon City, WI Europe Summer Retreat with Myoshin Kelley & Antonia Sumbundu August 26 – 31, Denmark Visit our website for Mingyur Rinpoche’s centers and upcoming programs in the U.S. Mexico, Canada, Europe, Africa, and South America. Visit learning.tergar.org for a free intro to meditation course, monthly video teachings by Mingyur Rinpoche, community forums, and more. Under the guidance of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche Tergar www.tergar.org 2013 Tergar Events Drubwang Tsoknyi Rinpoche Myoshin Kelley Tim Olmsted SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 83