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Lions Roar : November 2015
that there is something wrong with us, we must constantly look outside ourselves for something better than we are. That search can continue indefinitely, on and on and on. In contrast to that approach, meditation is contacting our actual situation, the raw and rugged state of our mind and being. No matter what is there, we should look at it. It is similar to building a long-term friendship with someone. As part of the pro- cess of becoming friends, you get to know things that you do not like about someone, and you encounter parts of the relationship that are very uncomfortable. Acknowledging the problems and coming to terms with them is often the founda- tion for a long-term friendship. Having included those things from the beginning, you won’t be shocked by them later on. Since you know all the negative aspects, you don’t have to hide from that side of the relationship. Then you can cultivate the other side, the positive side, as well. That is also a very good way to start making friends with yourself. Otherwise, you might feel surprised and cheated later on, when you discover the things that you’ve been hiding from yourself. Whatever exists in us is a natural situation. It is another dimension of natural beauty. People sometimes go to great lengths to appreciate nature, by climbing mountains, going on safari to see giraffes and lions in Africa, or taking a cruise to Antarctica. It is much simpler and more immediate to appreciate the natural beauty of ourselves. This is actually far more beautiful than exotic flora and fauna, far more fantastic, painful, colorful, and delightful. Meditation is extremely down to earth, irritatingly down to earth. It can also be demanding. If you stick with it, you will understand things about yourself and oth- ers, and you will gain clarity. If you practice regularly and follow this discipline, your experiences won’t necessarily be dramatic, but you will have a sense of discovering yourself. Through the down-to-earth practice of meditation you can see the colors of your own existence. The earth begins to speak to you rather than heaven sending you messages, so to speak. We often approach life as though we were defending ourselves from an attack. Many of us, when we were growing up, were frequently reprimanded in ways that made us feel bad about ourselves. Whether the criticism came from our parents, a teacher at school, or someone else, it tended to reinforce a feeling that there was something wrong with us. Criticism often produced a feeling of isolation, a feeling of you and me, sepa- rated by a great divide. We learned many defense mechanisms at an early age, thinking that a good defense would be the best protection from further reproach. We have continued this approach as adults. Whether it’s a confrontation with a stranger on the street or an argument with our partner in the bedroom, we believe that we need good excuses to explain ourselves and good logic to defend ourselves. We behave almost as though we were professional negotiators, our own little lawyers. In Western psychology, some approaches stress the importance of reinforcing ego to enhance self-esteem. We may misinterpret this to mean that we should promote ourselves at the expense of others. A person may become very self-centered with this attitude. It is like you are saying to the world, “Don’t you know who I am? I am what I am. If I’m attacked for that, that’s too bad. I’m on the side of the right.” You feel justified in what you’re doing, as if you had God on your side, or at least law and order on your side. Perhaps we should reexamine these assumptions, to see what really works. We need to investigate whether it’s beneficial to build ourselves up, especially to do so by SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2015 67