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Lions Roar : November 2019
more recently evolved parts of our brain, which contribute to feelings of connec- tion, empathy, and well-being. What can decondition the negativity bias? How do we shift from limbic reactivity to “attend and befriend”? Here are three ways that help us awaken our full potential for natural presence and caring. Look for the Vulnerability First, look toward the vulnerability, starting with ourselves. When we’re blaming ourselves, we can ask, “What’s really going on here? What has driven me to behave this way?” Perhaps you’ll see you were afraid to fall short, and that fear made you act exactly how you didn’t want to act. Or maybe you’ll see you wanted approval because you were feeling insecure, so you ended up betraying yourself and not act- ing with integrity. When you begin to understand that you’re hurting, you’ll naturally shift out of blame and into self-compassion. When triggered by others, first bring a kind presence to your own feelings of vulnerability. Once you’re more present and balanced, try to look through the eyes of wisdom at what might be behind their behavior. How might this person be caught in their own sense of inadequacy or confusion? If you can see how this per- son might be suffering, you’ll reconnect with a natural sense of tenderness. Actively Express Compassion When compassion arises, the next step is actively expressing it. This is what brings compassion fully to life. If you’re working on self-compassion, look to the vulnerable part of yourself to sense what it most needs from you. Is it for- giveness? Acceptance? Companionship? Safety? Love? Then from the wisest, kindest place in your being, try to offer what’s most needed. Either mentally or with a whisper, you might say your name and send a message of kindness to yourself. Perhaps place a hand gently on your heart or cheek, or even give your- self a hug as a way of conveying, from your more awake heart, “I’m here with you. I care.” If you’re working with compassion for others, it’s powerful and healing to communicate your recognition of their suffering and your care. We all know that when we’re with somebody we love, if we actually say the words “I love you” out loud, it brings the love to a new level. If you want to reverse your negativity bias with someone—to reverse your habits of blaming or distancing—look for their vulnerability and then, either through prayer or in person, offer them under- standing and kindness. Include Those Who Seem Different Part of our negativity bias and the cause of much racial, religious, and other domains of violence, is we assume potential danger—something wrong—associated with those who are different. A practice that evolves us (and our larger society) toward inclusive loving is intentionally deep- ening our relationships with others of difference. When we communicate on purpose, trying to understand, it opens us to the larger truth of our interconnectedness. While our brain has a flight/fight/ freeze mechanism, it also has a compas- sion network, which includes mirror neurons that allow us to register what it’s like for another. We can sense that others want to feel loved and loving, safe and happy. When we feel that connection, it enables us to act on behalf of each other, the relationship, or larger community. But unless we purposefully take time to pause and listen to others of difference, we won’t automatically engage that part of our brain. To have these heart-awak- ening dialogues, we need to intentionally create safe containers. naturaldha rm afellowshipBUDDHISM E MBODIED LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2019 20 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE