It’s been a brutal week for the world – attacks and counter-attacks, death of the innocent, drought, earthquakes, fire and pollution. When people are terrified, they close down, and protect themselves and their families at the expense of others, and at the expense of the planet. I still believe, though, that ‘an ounce of hope is worth a ton of despair’ (Monbiot, 2014) and that choosing where to focus our attention can help to sustain us as we engage with global challenges, in a way that is informed by wisdom. During the retreat I’ve been attending at the Tara Rokpa Centre, I heard a quote that touched me deeply:
“In order to help all living beings
in their seemingly unavoidable suffering,
we put on the tender armour of compassion…
for all living entities,
seen and unseen.”
His Holiness the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa,
from ‘Taming the Tiger’ by Akong Tulku Rinpoche
The retreat challenged us to identify and acknowledge with self compassion the afflictive emotions (or mind poisons) that all human beings experience. Whether hatred, arrogance, competitiveness, addiction, or stupidity, we all experience their crippling effect, yet try our best to hide from them or ignore their existence within us. They become an ever-present shadow, hiding behind us, out of view.
I practised saying inside my head, “I am angry, I am arrogant, I am ignorant, I am greedy, I am jealous” to see which phrase made my skin-crawl with discomfort. I often meet my anger, especially when feeling powerless in the face of bureaucracy. I know I am competitive, and have appreciated its benefits to my life along the way, as well as the humiliation of losing. I certainly know that I am stupid, and am constantly amazed by how I miss things that could have helped me act more skillfully in certain situations. Greed too carries me along from one chocolate brownie to the next.
|Our teeny warrior mantis – fighting with prayers|