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Lions Roar : January 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN jANUAry 2010 32 whether positive or negative, can you go back and pinpoint the exact moment it arose? These are useful questions. Just like getting to know a new friend, the first step is simply to find out about her. This process is really, really hard, so you need to appreciate yourself and what you are going through. so many problems re- sult from the inability to simply be kind to yourself. Please develop some sympathy for yourself, which is different from self- pity or self-indulgence. imagine if you knew that your best friend or your child or your mom was going through what you are experiencing—wouldn’t your heart ache for her? wouldn’t you feel that if only there were something you could do to help, you would do it? wouldn’t you think about her night and day with kind- ness, hoping for her to find peace? ask yourself honestly: have you felt these things about yourself? if you have, that is wonderful; you are a great friend. if you haven’t, you could try to offer kindness to yourself. you know that the ultimate kindness, the best thing you can do for a friend is simply to be there with her and for her when she’s falling apart. of- fering advice is not helpful unless you’ve been asked directly to give it. you know that trying to talk her out of what she’s feel- ing or convince her that it’s not a big deal is unkind. Telling her to buck up already is certainly not helpful. what helps more than anything? simple, unquestioning, ultra-pa- tient companionship. be by her side. Take her to a movie to get her mind off the situa- tion. check in with her throughout the day just so she’ll know someone is thinking of her. listen to her patiently, no matter how many times you’ve heard the story; feel sad with her when she cries and relieved when her spirits begin to rise. what helps more than anything is to be gentle toward yourself. gentleness doesn’t mean being all “poor baby” or coddling yourself in any way. real gentleness has way more precision and intelligence than that. gentleness means simply that you ac- knowledge and embrace your own experi- ence from moment to moment, without judgment. without trying to fix it. with- out feeling ashamed of it or, if you do feel ashamed of it, you do not feel ashamed of your shame! in this way, gentleness is ac- tually an advanced form of bravery. you aren’t afraid to take on your own suffer- ing, even though you don’t know how or when it will end; still, you agree to feel it. somehow, this acceptance begins to calm things down. on its own timetable, gen- tleness begins to pacify even the most rag- ing emotions. gentleness is the spiritual warrior’s most powerful weapon. The best way to cultivate gentleness toward yourself, thought by thought and moment by moment, is through the sit- ting practice of meditation. in fact, medi- tation, which is sitting with your self, your thoughts, emotions, and yearnings and simply allowing them to be as they are, is the practice of gentleness itself. There is no better teacher than this. most likely, there will be only a few times in your life when you’ll reach the limit of what you can bear. it may be from falling ill, the death of a parent, or even the loss of a most precious posses- sion, such as your home, and of course it can also be because of a broken heart. To face these extraordinary times, you need to take extraordinary measures. most of the tactics touted as “extraordinary mea- sures,” however, are really ways of escap- ing the reality of what we must face, our emotions. certainly drinking, drugging, random sex, and sleeping all the time are ways to avoid emotional pain, but even healthier means, such as positive thought, physical exercise, therapy, or simply forc- ing yourself to move on, are also meth- ods of stepping away from what ails you, rather than toward it. and stepping to- ward it and going into it do not just mean lying around crying all the time. it means meeting your emotions and relating to them, not as enemies to be conquered, but as wounded friends from the front, need- ing your loving attention. as Zen teacher and poet John Tarrant says, “attention is the most basic form of love. Through it we bless and are blessed.” ♦ From wisdom of a broken heart: an Uncommon guide to healing, insight, and love, by Susan piver. copyright © 2010 by Susan piver. Reprinted by permis- sion of Free press, a division of Simon & Schuster, inc. CHARAKU The Pleasure of Fine Japanese Te a