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Lions Roar : September 2014
Don’t Figure Others Out Think of how much we all talk about our friends and relatives, analyzing their words and deeds, sizing them up as if we actu- ally knew what made them tick. But just as you don’t appreciate being reduced to this or that cartoonish, likely uncompliment- ary, version of yourself, neither do they. The fact is, any version of who you, they, or anyone else is, is incorrect. Sitting on your meditation cushion for half an hour is long enough to show you quite directly that you are full of contradictions, unacknowledged issues, and unfinished busi- ness. There are so many good and bad sides to you that it would be hard to precisely define your charac- ter. And others are just like you, which means no one has the capacity to figure others out. And yet we do figure them out—or think we do. Then, based on that mischaracterization, we react. We do this especially with someone we are angry at. We know exactly who this person is, why he or she is unworthy of our regard and richly worthy of our anger. Why would we give this terrible person the benefit of the doubt? Never! Yet the truth is that we have no idea what is going on inside this person. We have no idea what really makes him or her tick. We are angry at a phantom, a figment of our own imagination. Don’t figure others out. Work With Your Biggest Problems First Working with our biggest problems first is the opposite of what we want to do. Usually we prefer to take on some- thing easy and work our way up to the tough things, but operating like this we never seem to get to that tough stuff. This slogan says turn first toward what is really difficult. Screw up your courage and go there right away. This will take all the mindfulness you have been able to cultivate from your time on the meditation cushion—and more. It will also take forbearance, one of the most powerful and least appre- ciated of all spiritual practices. Forbearance is the capacity to patiently stay with something unpleasant or difficult and face it rather than to do what comes naturally, which is to turn away. Forbearance requires that we develop the capac- ity—in our body, in our breath, in our heart—to stand firm and aware without acting, at least for the moment. When we’re angry, we typically blame and lash out. Most of us are not courageous enough to lash out at the people we are actually angry at, so instead we lash out at someone else who is safer, take potshots, gossip, or just grouse and feel indignant in the privacy of our own minds. Yet these activities probably don’t hurt the target of our anger at all. They do, though, hurt us and other people plenty. Working with the biggest problems first means that when we’re angry, we turn toward the anger. Instead of leaping to blame, recrimination, or distraction, we feel the anger in our body, in our breathing, in our racing thoughts. When we practice like this, we will calm down, see more of what is actually going on, and, eventually, be able to act wisely. SOURCEPHOTOBYTREKANDSHOOT|DREAMSTIME.COMPHOTOBYlIZAMATTHEWS