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Lions Roar : July 2019
perhaps more pertinently for me in that moment, someone who has deeply harmed me, as well as many other people. It wasn’t the first time Dad had asked me for advice about this person. In fact, he does it a lot, and historically it has made me crazy. I sense that he’s not able to see this person for the way he actually is, which has made me feel unsafe in the past. So when my father asks me for advice about him, it can feel like a potential betrayal of a young part of myself who needed a protector. There we were, on this beautiful beach, when my father asked for my advice again. And even though I knew we were repeat- ing the same old pattern, I dived into it. I stepped into the trap we co-create. From zero to one hundred in a second, I was totally enraged with my dad, just pissed off and frustrated, and we got into a heated fight. I was about to say some- thing really unkind when I stopped for a second and said, “Let’s look at the ocean.” That was the irony of it—here we were in this gorgeous place, going after each other’s necks. After a pause and feeling my breath in my belly, I said, “I’m sorry I agreed to answer your question. I under- stand that you want my help. I love you so much, and I would love to help you, but this dynamic never ends up going well.” Just like that, something broke open. It was extraordinary. In that moment I felt full, complete love for my father, even though one minute before I had been feeling nothing but rage. He actually still asks me for advice about this person sometimes. These days, I pause, breathe, and say no. And it feels great. I waited a long time for him to change. I felt that because I had been the one who had been wronged, that he should be the one to alter his behavior. But actually, I was the one who needed to shift. I needed to change the dynamic in myself. I need to continuously practice being the protector for the young part of me. That’s often the problem when we talk about relation- ships, isn’t it? It’s tends to go like this: “Well, when they change their behavior, then we’re going to have a great time and a fabulous relationship.” That’s often the critical error. We’re the ones who need to do the changing, even if it’s totally terrifying. There’s an old Chinese story about carp and the origin of dragons. Carp are like salmon: they swim upstream by flinging themselves above the water. It’s an intense thing to see, the golden fish throwing its body with all of its might. The myth goes that the carp transforms into a dragon, but only if it throws its whole body up the waterfall and through the dragon’s gate at the end of the Yellow River. The dragon, of course, is a symbol of enlightenment—of complete wakefulness. Sometimes—in moments like the one I had with my father—the beauty is in taking your whole body, using all your might, to just stop. Just stop. And once you’ve done that, truly feel what that’s like. Establishing trust in that feeling of peace is what allows us to take refuge, to commit totally to wakefulness in the midst of difficult moments. To me, that’s what taking refuge means: the decision that we’re going to live from a different kind of ground. Not the ground of “I’m right” or the ground of “You’re an ass- hole” but the ground of intimacy. But until we’re willing to have the courage and commitment to truly change the way we function, then “taking ref- uge” is just some idea. We need to be that golden carp. We might be scared, we might be afraid, and we are completely committed to waking up. ♦ HOT OFF THE PRESS From: WHOLEHEARTED Slow Down, Help Out, Wake Up By Koshin Paley Ellison Wisdom Publications, 208 pages, paperback, $11.95 NUNS IN THE HIMALAYAS The Pema Chödrön Foundation’s support helps ensure that nuns in Nepal, Bhutan and India have the same equal opportunities for deep practice and study as monks have always had. AT rISk popULATIoNS Pema is committed to supporting organizations that work to protect and nurture at-risk populations, particularly women and youth who are in challenging circumstances. THE Book INITIATIVE Pema’s books and recorded teachings are offered to underserved individuals and the organizations that support them, around the world, free of charge. THE BUDDHIST MoNASTIC TrADITIoN Pema is dedicated to help guide and support her home monastery, Gampo Abbey, as well as monastic settings in Asia and the West. OUR ONLINE BOOKSTORE: You can purchase Pema’s books, CDs and DVDs along with her archived teachings at our online bookstore. Free Shipping in the USA. THE pEMA CHöDröN FoUNDATIoN SUpporTS: pEMACHoDroNFoUNDATIoN.org LION’S ROAR | JULY 2019 78