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Lions Roar : May 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2007 71 SUSAN PIVER is the author of How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life (St. Martin’s Press), a book about Bud- dhist principles in everyday life. She regularly appears on TV and in print discussing spiritual ideas. ward onto ground that won’t also give way. All you candoisrunasfastasyoucanofftheedgeofthe cliff into space and, like Wile E. Coyote, notice how your legs keep pumping furiously—even though there is no longer any surface to tread upon. As it turns out, this state of not-here-not-there cre- ates tremendous fear and discomfort, and there is only one quality that can help: gentleness. The very first person to whom this quality could be extended is yourself. No matter how hard you push you’re not go- ing to find solid ground, so the only choice is to relax. Gentleness is allowing what you honestly feel to arise without ignoring it, obsessing over it, cataloging it, or getting freaked out by it. “What is left?” you may be asking. As you discover in meditation, what is left is the present moment and the willingness to try to come back to it, no matter how intense or boring things get. HOW NOT TO BE AFRAID OF YOURSELF: GENTLENESS I once ran into a friend and fellow practitioner as I was exiting a contentious business meeting. He could see that I was upset. (My sobbing must have given me away.) I explained what had happened at the meeting and then expressed dismay at the weakness of my Buddhist practice: “I must be a very poor practitioner if one jerk can throw me so completely into hysterics.” He said, “So you think that not getting upset is a sign of progress?” I real- ized that I had been hoping it was. “No,” he said. “Progress is how quickly you can stabilize your attention on what you’re feeling. Progress is how quickly you can come back.” The only way to come back to the present moment is to soften and let go, to accept what you’re feeling even if it is completely unfair and uncomfortable. And then you sit with it as you would sit with a sad child. When a child is sad, you don’t shake him and say, “What is your problem?” You don’t ignore him