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Lions Roar : May 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2007 61 pampering our neurosis. The kindness that I learned from my teachers, and that I wish so much to convey to other people, is kindness toward all qualities of our being. The qualities that are the toughest to be kind to are the painful parts, where we feel ashamed, as if we don’t belong, as if we’ve just blown it, when things are falling apart for us. Maitri means sticking with our- selves when we don’t have anything, when we feel like a loser. And it becomes the basis for extending the same unconditional friendliness to others. If there are whole parts of your- self that you are always running from, that you even feel justified in running from, then you’re going to run from anything that brings you into contact with your feelings of insecurity. And have you noticed how of- ten these parts of ourselves get touched? The closer you get to a sit- uation or a person, the more these feelings arise. Often when you’re in a relationship it starts off great, but when it gets intimate and begins to bring out your neurosis, you just want to get out of there. So I’m here to tell you that the path to peace is right there, when you want to get away. You can cruise through life not letting any- thing touch you, but if you really want to live fully, if you want to enter into life, enter into genuine relationships with other people, with animals, with the world situation, you’re definitely going to have the experience of feeling pro- voked, of getting hooked, of shenpa. You’re not just going to feel bliss. The message is that when those feelings emerge, this is not a failure. This is the chance to cultivate maitri, uncondi- tional friendliness toward your perfect and imperfect self. Relative bodhichitta also includes awakening compassion. One of the meanings of compassion is “suffering with,” be- ing willing to suffer with other people. This means that to the degree you can work with the wholeness of your being—your prejudices, your feelings of failure, your self-pity, your depres- sion, your rage, your addictions—the more you will connect with other people out of that wholeness. And it will be a rela- tionship between equals. You’ll be able to feel the pain of other people as your own pain. And you’ll be able to feel your own pain and know that it’s shared by millions. Absolute bodhichitta, also known as shunyata, is the open dimension of our being, the completely wide-open heart and mind. Without labels of “you” and “me,” “enemy” and “friend,” absolute bodhichitta is always here. Cultivating absolute bodhi- chitta means having a relationship with the world that is non- conceptual, that is unprejudiced, having a direct, unedited re- lationship with reality. ➢ page 105 Pema Chödrön and Alice Walker at a public talk they gave together in San Francisco, 1999.