Monday, September 8, 2008

Awakening Our Noble Hearts

That last post was the Marines-style approach to getting over fear: fuck it.

While I find that approach refreshing once in a while, there's no point dropping our shields if we haven't trained in how to tolerate being so vulnerable.
Whenever I've tried pushing myself too hard, too soon, I've pretty quickly gone into a nosedive.

My favorite person for help with the gentler approach is Pema Chodron, American Buddhist nun, teacher and student of Tibetan Buddhism.

So, to counterbalance Mick Napier, here's a bit from Chodron's Comfortable with Uncertainty (Shambala, 2002, p. 5-6) on practicing toward flying with our shields down:

"The Healing Power of Bodhichitta"

Bodhichitta is a Sanskrit word that means "noble or awakened heart."
Just as butter is inherent in milk,... the soft spot of bodhichitta is inherent in you and me. It is equated, in part, with our ability to love.

No matter how committed we are to unkindness, selfishness, or greed, the genuine heart of bodhichitta cannot be lost. It is here in all that lives...completely whole.

It is said that in difficult times, it is only bodhichitta that heals. When inspiration has become hidden, when we feel ready to give up, this is the time when healing can be found in the tenderness of pain itself.

Bodhichitta is also equated, in part, with compassion––our ability to feel the pain that we share with others.
Without realizing it we continually shield ourselves from this pain because it scares us. Based on a deep fear of being hurt, we erect protective walls made out of strategies, opinions, prejudices, and emotions.
Yet just as a jewel that has been buried in the earth for a million years is not discolored or harmed, in the same way this noble heart is not affected by all the ways we try to protect ourselves from it.

This tenderness for life, bodhichitta, awakens when we no longer shield ourselves from the vulnerability of our condition, from the basic fragility of existence.
It awakens through kinship with the suffering of others. We train in the bodhichitta practices in order to become so open that we can take the pain of the world in, let it touch our hearts, and turn it into compassion [for ourselves and all beings].
[end quote]
--Pema Chodron

4 comments:

bink said...

I like thinking of butter being in(herent) in milk rather than just that milk is in butter. A twist that gives new insight.

fresca said...

It's so helpful just to look at something upside-down or inside-out sometimes. And it's free!

Jennifer said...

I might just go looking for that book, it looks lovely. I always enjoy reading books like that, I feel so centered and balanced when I'm reading them. It's the putting them down and going on with life that's hard. ;)

fresca said...

Too true--as Pema Chodron says, meditation is all about how we stay equanimous when we are OFF the cushion... (or when not reading the book).
Therein lies the trick! Art. Whatever.