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Lions Roar : September 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2013 49 terrible to the core. Remorse has a much softer and more creative quality. There is space for us to acknowledge our deeper, positive nature and to see that the negativity or harm we have generated is not really who we are. Even as we reflect with sadness on the harm that confusion causes, we feel inspired about our buddhanature and what we are capable of when we are connected to it. This is the basis for moving on and doing things differently. We don’t need to feel bad about something in order to take an honest look at our experience and work with our self-deception and mistakes. We may believe we should berate ourselves, and that only a harsh remedy will teach us the “lesson” we need. But as the great teachers have pointed out, it is gentleness, not speed or feigned toughness, that cuts through our temporary confu- sion and reveals our true buddhanature. TYLER DEWAR is a senior teacher in the Nalandabodhi sangha. A full-time translator and oral interpreter of Tibetan Buddhist teachings, he is the translator of The Karmapa’s Middle Way and Trainings in Compassion. Put Down that Burden As a child, MARY PIPHER coped by taking on too much responsibility. As an adult, she’s learning to be kind to herself. I feel as if I were born responsible. I was the oldest of six children, and by the time I was two, I had a father fighting in Korea, a mother in medical school, and a baby brother. When I was six, I heard my uncle ask my dad about a picnic and he answered, “Ask Mary. She plans everything for our family.” While my early experiences led me to feel that I was in control, I was continually presented with evidence to the contrary: my siblings fought with each other, my casserole turned out horribly, my parents didn’t make it home by bedtime. But these realities didn’t negate my deep-seated belief that if only I worked hard enough, and did everything right, I could solve the problems in my small world of family. As an adult, I have chosen work that has put me in charge of orchestrating other people’s experiences. I’ve been a therapist, a teacher, a writer, and a community organizer. I’ve enjoyed and taken pride in being what I was as a girl—a “good little helper.” Yet as I’ve grown older, I’ve felt increasingly burdened by my internal mission to care for everyone. I know too many people now and my days can quickly fill up with nothing but helpful activities. These last three years, as I have worked to fight envi- ronmental destruction, I have developed allergies and breath- ing problems. When I discussed these issues with my Buddhist teacher, she asked me, “Has it occurred to you that saving the planet doesn’t rest on your shoulders alone?” “Not really,” I answered, and we both laughed. After that, I paid more attention to my automatic impulse to help. Instead of moving quickly from observation to action, I allowed myself to stop and hold that perceived need in my aware- ness. I saw that often my body was tired and tense. I noted needi- ness in myself, a fear of upsetting others and losing their love. With mindful waiting, that anxiety subsided. I realized that often my help was unnecessary. And sometimes I could help sim- ply by observing with compassion and trusting that the universe would unfurl beautifully without my intervention. Ceding con- trol to a force outside myself was a great comfort. MARY PIPHER is the author of The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture. and you could use a little improvement...