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Lions Roar : September 2015
done, but the painful aspects of life, the really hard times, have been my main teachers. Tami Simon: It’s one thing to accept adverse circumstances that happen in your life, but what about when you encounter some- thing inside yourself you can’t stand, like pettiness or mean- spiritedness or jealousy? Pema Chödrön: That’s the stuff you work with. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. It may seem like the outer circum- stances are the problem, but the challenge is actually what they bring up in you—the inner experiences of anguish or sorrow or suffering that they provoke or trigger in you. I don’t feel self-loathing and those kinds of intense emotions anymore, but I sure remember what they feel like. I know that the single most important thing for people today is the extent to which they feel really bad about themselves. I have a pas- sion for finding a way of talking about this that can help people make friends with themselves. That requires a deep acceptance of yourself and learning how to accept things inside you that are considered unacceptable. Usually we spend our whole lives trying to avoid the feeling that “there’s something fundamentally wrong with me.” The view I’m coming from is that we’re actually complete and whole, and there is nothing fundamentally wrong with us. In fact, we are fundamentally good, and we can connect with that goodness. We can move closer to accepting and honoring all parts of ourselves, while knowing that almost everybody shares those bad feelings about themselves. This is just what it’s like to be human. Tami Simon: You talked about being able to stand in someone else’s shoes. How do we actually do that? Pema Chödrön: Well, to stand in someone else’s shoes, you have to stand in your own shoes first. It’s all tied in with what I’ve been saying about not running away from difficult experiences. If you don’t run away from the experiences of sickness or physi- cal pain or emotional suffering, then when someone else shows up with physical pain or depression or anger, you automatically stand in their shoes. You’ve been there. You understand. It’s not something you have to drum up. There are also practices you can do to help you develop more empathy and compassion. One is called Just Like Me, which helps you see that you and others are the same. Say you’re in a traffic jam. You look around at all the other drivers and think, just like me they don’t like to be in this traffic jam. Just like me they’re fuming and fussing. Or you’re walking along the street and there’s someone sitting on a sidewalk who is very distressed. You think, just like me they want to be happy. Just like me, they want to have some comfort in their life. You see your sameness. For me, the main thing is experiencing what you experience fully and completely—not running away, not trying to avoid SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2015 46