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Showing posts from April, 2012

Learning to Recognize Our Strategies

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Whenever we find ourselves caught in what I call “the trance of unworthiness,” many of us tend to reflexively do whatever we can to avoid the raw pain of feeling unworthy. Each time our deficiencies are exposed—to ourselves or others—we tend to react, anxiously trying to cover our nakedness, like Adam and Eve after the fall. Over the years, we each develop a particular blend of strategies designed to hide our flaws and compensate for what we believe is wrong with us.
Here are a few that are common; do you see yourself in any?

1. We embark on one self-improvement project after another
We strive to meet the media standards for the perfect body and looks by coloring out the grays, lifting our face, being on a perpetual diet. We push ourselves to get a better position at work. We exercise, take enriching courses of study, meditate, make lists, volunteer, take workshops. Certainly any of these activities can be undertaken in a wholesome way, but so often they are driven by anxious undercurre…

Growing Up Unworthy

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In their book, Stories of the Spirit, Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman tell this story:
A family went out to a restaurant for dinner. When the waitress arrived, the parents each gave their orders. Immediately, their five-year-old daughter piped up with her own: “I'll have a hot dog, french fries and a Coke.” “Oh no you won't,” interjected the dad, and turning to the waitress he said, “She'll have meat loaf, mashed potatoes, milk.” Looking at the child with a smile, the waitress said, “So, hon, what do you want on that hot dog?” When she left, the family sat stunned and silent. A few moments later the little girl, eyes shining, said, “She thinks I'm real.”
Most of the clients that come to see me are very aware of the qualities of an ideal parent. They know that when parents are genuinely present and loving, they offer their child a mirror for his or her goodness. Through this clear mirroring a child develops a sense of security and trust early in life, as well as the…

Imperfection Is Not Our Personal Problem

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After graduating from college, I moved into an ashram, a spiritual community, and enthusiastically devoted myself to the lifestyle for almost twelve years. I felt I had found a path through which I could purify myself and transcend the imperfections of my ego—the self and its strategies. We were required to awaken every day at three-thirty A.M., take a cold shower, and then from four until six-thirty do a sadhana (spiritual discipline) of yoga, meditation, chanting and prayer. By breakfast time I often felt as if I were floating in a glowing, loving, blissful state. I was at one with the loving awareness I call the Beloved and experienced this to be my own deepest essence. I didn’t feel bad or good about myself, I just felt good.

By the end of breakfast, or a bit later in the morning, my habitual thoughts and behaviors would start creeping in again, and those ever-recurring feelings of insecurity and selfishness would let me know I was falling short. Unless I found the time for more…

“My religion is kindness”

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One of the wonderful teachings of the Dalai Lama, something he says quite regularly, is “My religion is kindness.” When we hear that, it resonates, because it points to something at the core of all spiritual and humanistic paths. If we just dedicated our lives to kindness, to the qualities of friendliness and care, we would be directly serving peace on earth. We’d be serving social justice and the healing of our environment. Imagine it—the world that would emerge if we all commited ourselves to cultivating kind hearts.
Love, and its expressions in compassion, generosity and joy, is innate to us. We can either stay in our habitual conditioning and have these qualities be latent, only partially expressed, or as we wake up, we can become more intentional about having them flourish.
One of the promises of Buddhism and most other spiritual traditions, is that we have the capacity to awaken our hearts. There are ways to train our attention so that we actually feel tenderness and responsiven…

Everybody Has Buddha Nature

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You will be walking some night… It will be clear to you suddenly that you were about to escape, and that you are guilty: you misread the complex instructions, you are not a member, you lost your card or never had one…Wendell Berry
Over a decade ago a small group of Buddhist teachers and psychologists from the United States and Europe invited the Dalai Lama to join them in a dialogue about emotions and health. During one of their sessions, an American vipassana teacher asked him to talk about the suffering of self-hatred.
A look of confusion came over the Dalai Lama’s face. “What is self-hatred?” he asked. As the therapists and teachers in the room tried to explain, he looked increasingly bewildered. Was this mental state a nervous disorder? he asked them. When those gathered confirmed that self-hatred was not unusual but rather a common experience for their students and clients, the Dalai Lama was astonished. How could they feel that way about themselves, he wondered, when “everybody has Budd…