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Lions Roar : November 2016
• You can understand more clearly your own particular default patterns, with all their complexities, and bring your- self back to the simple natural arising of care and empathy. IT IS POSSIBLE to walk a path between the extremes of pes- simism and optimism. In order to respond with skill and compassion, you do not need to come to a solid conclusion about the nature of the world. You do not need either to cling to your view of how bad things are, or to close yourself off from whatever disturbs your rosy view of things. If you look at your own experience from day to day, you can see the shifty quality of such judgments. “I had a good day. It was warm and sunny and I felt great. But yesterday I had a crummy day. It was rainy, I got the flu, and I fell behind in my work.” In any individual life, there are easier and harder times. Circumstances are always changing. They change slowly and inexorably, and they change suddenly and unexpectedly. Often we see our own hand in the circumstances we experience, and sometimes we are blindsided by situations beyond our control. When things are going relatively smoothly, it is easy to become complacent and assume that our good fortune will automatically continue. When things are not going well, we also assume that nothing will ever change, and we succumb to defeatism. In both cases we take whatever we are experiencing currently and project it into the future, selectively recalling past experiences that reinforce our view of the way things are. Our struggle to pin down our living on-the-spot experience of life is futile. We may attempt to get a grasp on life, to pin it down or make it manageable in some way, but it is hard to see beyond the circumstances and mood of the moment. There seem to be only two alternatives: the glass is half full or the glass is half empty. But a glass with water up to the mid- point is not making a statement either way. It is neither half full nor half empty. Neither is it both half full and half empty. Such a water glass is not elated by being half full, nor discouraged by being half empty. It just is: a glass with water in it. • The world just is. It is not a this-versus-that, good-versus- bad world. It is an interdependent world. This interdependent world is the dancing ground of bod- hisattvas, who thrive in the dynamism of life. By recognizing that every sorrow invites a fresh compassionate response, the bodhisattva path gives us a much broader perspective on our situation. Bodhisattvas are the ones who see the depth and breadth of suffering and confusion most clearly, yet they place themselves right in the midst of it. I have often wondered: how can bodhisattvas sit there so elegantly and smile? It may be because they have learned that no matter how bad things become, it is possible to change one’s attitude on the spot. The flow of compassion cannot be inter- rupted. In fact, with each new crisis, its flow is increased. • At any moment, as my teacher Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche once told me, “You could just cheer up!” ♦ LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2016 71