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Lions Roar : November 2019
worthy about you. You discover strength and good- ness you didn’t know you had. It helps if your sights are not set too high. You could say to yourself that if you stay present with an uneasy feeling for just two seconds, that’s excel- lent and makes your life worth it. I’ve seen this hap- pen again and again—you begin to find your own certainty that you can do it. There’s basic strength and goodness you discover in you. The second thing is that it’s very important to bring in the love and compassion, the appreciation and gratitude, and not get lopsided in terms of the heav y, difficult things. The strength to stay present comes also from beauty and joy and love. In somatic experiencing, they do something that I’ve brought into my own teaching. When they’re working with somebody who is going into a very traumatizing area, they ask the person to stop and scan the room. Just feel the space they’re in. Then, if they see something they find particularly pleas- ing, they can come back to it when they start to feel too frightened or edgy. You can come back to positive elements again and again. They help you open up to the entire experience, the whole of life. Then, instead of everything being tamped down, there’s a sense of the joy and love. It’s like finding your ability to love, finding your ability to be tender and vulnerable. There’s a lot of teaching now on vulnerability, both non-Buddhist and Buddhist teachings. Not being afraid to be vulnerable is a great way to dis- cover both the basic goodness of humanity and the potential of living sanely in this world together. It can go either way—you can close down around vul- nerability, but you can also open to it. People can see vulnerability as a negative, but it has a kind of a tenderness to it. It has a heart quality. I think that as human beings we all have inherently broken hearts, but our broken heart has a certain sweetness or romance to it. Trungpa Rinpoche called it “sad and tender heart.” I love his expression “the genuine heart and mind of sadness.” Putting a positive spin on the word “sadness” is very intriguing, because sadness can come from compassion, from caring about the world, from seeing injustice. I’ve taught a lot about bodhichitta, and I always talk about it as heart. To talk from a place of vulnerability is the same thing as talking to each other from a place of trusting each other’s basic goodness. What is your experience of working with your own teachers? They’ve really challenged me. I find that I can schmooze people very easily, but I’m not able to do that with them. They never let me off the hook, and I like that sort of uncomfortable, edgy place. If I have anything that I don’t want them to see about me, it comes right out. They’re seeing it and so I’m seeing it, which is the most relevant part. What I want from a teacher is somebody who challenges my habitual patterns, how I hold myself together in a self-centered, self-protective way. They challenge my safety zone and encourage me, just by how they are with me, to step out of my comfort zone into a place where I actually learn and grow. What do you feel about how dharma is generally being taught in the West today? There are a lot of people concerned about losing the essence. That’s always a concern—to make sure the teachings don’t get watered down or the profundity isn’t lost. But it doesn’t seem like it is being lost. What I see is that many modern teach- ers are discussing principles like emptiness in very profound and interesting ways that are much more accessible. What I find most refreshing is that as more and more Westerners have some experience themselves, the voice of Buddhism is becoming very fresh and pertinent. Some of the traditional teachings aren’t in touch with our current experience, so the lan- guage can be a hindrance for people to be able to hear the dharma. Of course, once you have some experience, those classical teachings are very rewarding, because they go so deep and they’re so profound. But the tradi- tional teachings can be formulaic, and it’s refreshing that that’s not happening with Western teachers. I like that part of it a lot. ♦ LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2019 59