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Lions Roar : November 2019
without really seeing it, and when you go out, you cover the lump with cosmetics. You just can’t face the fact that you have this hideous thing on your face. Then a four-year-old child marches up to you and says in front of a crowd of people, “What’s that big thing on the end of your nose?” This child is giv- ing you an up close and personal look at your ego. She’s showing you where you’re resisting reality, where you are tight and need to loosen. In this way, you could say the child is your teacher. Machik Labdron, a great Tibetan practitioner who lived in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, had a list of radical suggestions for getting unstuck from our ego-clinging. The first of these is “Reveal your hidden faults.” Instead of concealing our flaws and being defensive when they are exposed, she coun- seled us to be open about them. If you’ve taken a good look in the mirror, gotten over your wincing, and completely accepted the pimple “ just as it is,” then you don’t need some- one else to reveal your hidden fault. You can say to the child, “Right on! Good observation!” But this response is only realistic for those who have come a long way in their practice of welcoming the unwelcome. Until we reach that stage, we will need people to point out our various “pimples” so that we get more comfortable with owning them. It doesn’t have to be a major humiliation in front of a crowd. Often enough, without even meaning to, someone will say something to us that exposes a hidden shame. Having the attitude that you want to grow from ever ything that comes to you makes it pos- sible to use the label “teacher” instead of “insensi- tive jerk ” or “little brat.” If your goal is inner trans- formation, then why not see everything that helps you grow—however unpleasant it seems at first—as your teacher? Why not see your “enemies” as “spiri- tual friends”? Needless to say, this isn’t so easy to do. It’s more like an ideal behavior, along the lines of “turn the other cheek.” It’s where we hope to arrive if we work with our mind and its habits over a long period of time. We can’t just hear a piece of inspiring advice and immediately go from wanting to slug the per- son to being able to turn the other cheek. We have to work with where we are and allow a gradual transformation to happen. But to whatever degree we can implement this attitude, we will have that much strength in dealing with situations that might normally cause us deep distress. We will feel that much more at ease in the world. Never underestimate the power of mind. How you work with things really can transform what seems to be. Working with the inner has the ability to transform the outer—though not in any linear way you can put your finger on. For example, if you work with your own aggression, everyone seems friendlier. I used to feel under attack all the time, but now people seem pretty nice. Is that because I have less aggression or because they’re actually nicer? You never get to know a definite answer. But what becomes increasingly clear is that your inner work has a profound effect on how you perceive the outer world. This is why we should pay attention to how we label things. Toward the end of my mother’s life, I had devel- oped a very unflattering view of her. I labeled this woman—who had been a really good mother to me—with words such as “hypochondria” and “self- pity.” This was partly my reaction to some of the difficulties we were having as I began to lead a more unconventional life. Then at one point, I met an old LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2019 52