Working With Fear, Difference, Other

From When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron

To relate with others compassionately is a challenge. Really communicating to the heart and being there for someone else -  our child, spouse, parent, client, patient, or the homeless woman on the street - means not shutting down on that person, which means, first of all, not shutting down on ourselves. This means allowing ourselves to feel what we feel and not putting it away. It means accepting every aspect of ourselves, even the parts we don't like. To do this requires openness, which in Buddhism is sometimes called emptiness -  not fixating or holding on to anything. Only in an open, nonjudgemental space can we acknowledge what we are feeling. Only in an open space where we're not all caught up in our own version of reality can we see and hear and feel who others really are, which allows us to be with with them and communicate with them properly. 

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Instead of making others right or wrong, or bottling up right and wrong in ourselves, there's a middle way, a very powerful middle way. We could see it as sitting on the razor's edge, not falling off to the right or the left. This middle way involves not hanging on to our version so tightly. It involves keeping our hearts and minds open long enough to entertain the idea that when we make things wrong, we do it out of a desire to obtain some kind of ground or security. Equally, when we make things right, we are still trying to obtain some kind of ground or security. Could our minds and our hearts be big enough just to hang out in that space where we're not entirely certain about who's right and who's wrong? Could we have no agenda when we walk into a room with another person, not know what to say, not make that person wrong or right? Could we see, hear, feel other people as they really are? It is powerful to practice this way, because we'll find ourselves continually rushing around to try to feel secure again - to make ourselves or them either right or wrong. But true communication can only happen in that open space. 

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Compassionate action, being there for others, being able to act and speak in a way that communicates, starts with seeing ourselves when we start to make ourselves right or make ourselves wrong. At that particular point, we could just contemplate the fact that there is a larger alternative to to either of those, a more tender, shaky kind of place where we could live. This place, if we can touch it, will help us train ourselves throughout our lives to open further to whatever we feel, to open further rather than shut down more. We'll find that as we begin to commit ourselves to this practice, as we begin to have a sense of celebrating the aspects of ourselves that we found so impossible before, something will shift in us. Something will shift permanently in us. Our ancient habitual patterns will begin to soften, and we'll begin to see the faces and hear the words of people who are talking to us.