Thursday, April 5, 2012

Healing the World as We Heal Ourselves

I have recently discovered the writings of Pema Chodron, an American Buddhist nun who teaches in Nova Scotia, at the first Tibetan monastery in North America established for westerners. Her books have provided me with some very practical and appreciated insight from the Buddhist perspective.

In the book I’m reading now, called Taking the Leap, Chodron addresses in her gentle but powerful manner how we often use our spiritual practice as a way to feel better, but could broaden our perspective to allow our practice to teach us the tools we need to help uplift others.

More specifically, she states that “for many, spiritual practice represents a way to relax and a way to access peace of mind. We want to feel more calm, more focused; and with our frantic and stressful lives, who can blame us? Nevertheless, we have a responsibility to think bigger than that these days. If spiritual practice is relaxing, if it gives us some peace of mind, that’s great – but is this personal satisfaction helping us to address what’s happening in the world? The main question is, are we living in a way that adds further aggression and self-centeredness to the mix, or are we adding some much-needed sanity?”

She quotes a story about a Native American grandfather who was speaking to his grandson about violence and cruelty in the world and how it comes about. The grandfather said that it was as if two wolves were fighting in his heart. One wolf was vengeful and angry, and the other wolf was kind and understanding. The young man asked his grandfather which wolf would win the fight in his heart. And the grandfather answered, “The one that wins will be the one I choose to feed.”

The challenge, says Chodron, for our spiritual practice and for the world, is how can we train right now, not later, in feeding the right wolf?

One practice that she suggests in our “training” is something she simply calls “a pause.” Throughout the day, as we are able, she recommends that we just pause from what we are doing, and step back from the mind’s activity for a count of three breaths.  That is all.

I’m finding that when I do this I step back into that space of being the watcher, the I who watches me, the divine within me that is able to notice where my mind has been, but remains forever loving and peaceful regardless of its travels.

Chodron’s belief, as I’m coming to understand it, is that as we step back from the unconscious activity of mind we are able to access our natural intelligence, openness and warmth, and carry that forward into our interactions with others. These are words to heal a world by!

May you pause often to connect with our collective, perfect good, and may this tool be a blessing. . .

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