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Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

This is another year Reb Anderson invited us to have a jam session with him at a Zen sesshin on the tiny island of Idöborg in Stockholm archipelago. I suspect Reb developed a strong bond with the island and the cold waters of the Baltic sea as he keeps returning to this place just as many of us do.

The little experience of sitting sesshins I have come from this environment, with this teacher and basically this gang so in a way it was like going home. Meeting some of the people at the boat terminal on our way to the island was like seeing old friends again – it felt as if we never parted. Apparently, nothing brings people closer than sitting, surviving the contents of one’s mind, and working, walking, eating and sharing living space in silence for about a week.  Quite a few of the people have been to Green Gulch Farm where Reb’s been teaching and/or sat sesshins with him in other countries.

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The aim of the Buddhist practice is to learn to see reality as it is, without adding anything or taking anything away.

So how do we practice with shadow?

Understanding where shadow comes from gives us insights about ourselves, shows us this is not something we could help and we don’t have to carry the guilt for having the shadow in the first place. It also gives us clues as to how we can deal with shadow material integrating it rather than keeping it under the surface.

From what I understand shadow arises when for some reason we are unable to deal with the direct experience and decide (unconsciously) to suppress it. For example, if as a child I get angry but don’t feel safe to express my anger because this is not the type of emotions my family encourages and I am afraid I will not be loved if I show anger, I suppress it and this part of my experience becomes my shadow (goes into the basement). I will then project my anger onto others and see a lot of it on my path.

Poet and author Robert Bly sees shadow as an invisible bag we all carry around. Early in our lives when we are whole, we are 360 degrees and our bag is empty. As we grow up, we internalize the don’t be- messages coming from all directions  (first our family, then even our peers) while as we grow up we try to lighten the burden by retrieving those sides of us we put into the bag (and freeing the energy that takes us to uphold the façade, that self-image that we pre- approved).

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For Saturday’s  webinar we were asked to reflect on the question,  “Is the body great or small?”. I noticed the frustration I felt with the way the question was formulated and my internal resistance toward setting a label, defining the body in terms of it’s size. As soon as I said something about the size, it became reduced to that – size, something relative, a concept. The body itself did not seem to matter that much any more. It held no mystery.

Still, in our lives we do have to measure, to compare. “Is the practice  great or small?”. If I don’t measure it, how do I even know if I’ve moved at all or am still stuck on the same spot? How could I measure my practice? Not in hours spent on the cushion, or the number of Dharma books I read or retreats I attended. I guess ultimately it was about the question, What is it that I want from my practice?

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I received a few comments to my previous post, some of them not on this page. What they had in common was the idea that we need others because we love them and needing people was in fact not so bad. In short: we need to need people.  I believe that the idea that some degree of dependency in a relationship is OK aside from the cultural underpinning is also backed up by another strong belief: if we don’t need others we will end up being cold-hearted and detached people and that is not an attractive picture. Likewise, if others don’t need us, we will end up lonely and unappreciated.

Really?

What about the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela or other individuals who have shown enormous compassion to their fellow humans and do not strike me as cold, detached and non-caring? Nor do they appear(ed) to be lonley and unappreciated. It is easy to think that once we take away our dependency on others, there will be nothing left.

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On compassion

I thought this month I would focus on exploring the notion of compassion: how do I define it, why bother with it, my own hang ups around it, the techniques for cultivating compassion (what works for me). This seems like a good place to start:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Talking about compassion“, posted with vodpod

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