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Lions Roar : January 2003
52 SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2003 ing, his feelings about women repugnant and his behav- ior quite annoying. In short, she didn’t like him at all and urged him to find another therapist. However, because he very much wanted to work with her, she finally acqui- esced. Now, because he was her client, she tried to look at his unskillful behavior, and the ways he shut himself off, with compassion instead of contempt and fear. As they worked together, she began to see all the ways in which his life was very difficult. She began to see that he longed—as she herself did—for happiness and how, like her, he suffered. Although she continued to recognize, without denial, his unpleasant behavior, she found that she did so with the feeling that she was necessarily his ally. The goal became his release from suffering. He had become “hers.” Even though I don’t believe she ever liked him, or approved of many of his views, she came to love him. Love and compassion are not conceptual states, they’re not things we put on as a kind of veneer or pre- tense, not something we are obliged to parrot, no matter what we are actually feeling. When we let go of our con- cepts of duality and separation, then love, which is con- nection, and compassion, which is kindness, arise as reflections of the mind’s natural state. This is not just a nice idea; this is something very real and fundamental. The Buddha once said, “Develop a mind so filled with love that it resembles space, which cannot be pointed, cannot be marred, cannot be ruined.” Imagine throwing paint around in vast, endless space. There is nowhere for the paint to land. It doesn’t matter whether it was a beau- tiful choice of color or not. It doesn’t matter, because there is nowhere that the space is going to be painted or marred or ruined by it. When we relax the divisions that we usually make, the mind becomes like space. This is not something that a fortunate few have the capacity to expe- rience; it is the nature of the mind, which every one of us has the ability to know. a kaleidoscope—with just one turn, all of the glass moves and shifts into a new and different configuration and a different pattern. This is a vast web of interconnectedness that doesn’t seem to have a beginning, doesn’t seem to have any solid- ity, doesn’t seem to have any boundary. Seeing this vision of vastness, of interconnectedness, gives rise to loving-kindness. We look at a tree and see it not as a seemingly solitary, singular entity but as a set of relationships—of elements and forces and contingencies all connecting in constant motion: the seed that was planted, and the quality of the soil that received the seed; the quality of the air, and the sunlight, the moonlight, the wind. That is the tree. In the same way, each of us in every moment is a set of relationships. That is loving-kindness. It is a view rather than a feeling. It is a view that arises from a radical perception of nonseparateness. In teaching loving-kindness, I have found that people are afraid when they think of it as a sentiment—afraid that they’re not capable of feeling it, afraid that they will feel hypocritical or complacent if they try. But loving-kindness is not a manufactured emotion. As soon as we define it as a certain feeling, we make it into an object, a thing, something we give or don’t give, something we have or don’t have, something we might have to produce on demand, like a card on Valentine’s Day. Loving-kindness is not an object, it is an essential way of seeing that arises when we free ourselves from our nor- mal mental habits that create division and boundaries and barriers, that create a sense of self and other. The practice of loving- kindness is a relinquishing, a coming back, a relaxing into our natural state of mind. Almost from my first acquaintance with dharma practice, I heard that loving-kindness and compassion were elements or manifestations of the natu- ral state of mind. I would hear that and think, “No way. Look at this world—it’s a mess. I’m also a mess. There’s just no way that these qualities can be the natural state of the mind.” But as I have continued to investigate life, what I’ve come to see again and again and again, without a single exception ever, is that when I see things more clearly, when I can be a little more still and not rush to judgment, when I learn something about somebody or about myself, even if it is just information, when I see a situation or a person more clearly, I am always brought to a greater sense of connection, to a greater sense of loving- kindness. Never has clearer seeing led to more separation or distance, more alienation or fear. Not once. A friend of mine was a wonderfully empathic thera- pist. One day a man came to see her, beseeching her to take him as a client. She found his political views alienat- ➣ page 74