Do you fear a loved one
"Go to the place you fear"
The book by Pema Chödrön “Go to the places that you fear” is like a small guide that shows us methods and gives us tools on how we can set out on the way to awaken the completely open heart in us and become a compassionate warrior. “We can allow circumstances to harden us, make us more fearful and rejecting, or they can teach us to be gentler, more compassionate and kind and more open to what we fear. We have a choice. ”The book is based on this teaching.
“Bodhichitta” (“completely open heart”, “sore point”) is also equated with the ability to “love” and with compassion. Love and compassion scare us because through them we open up. Since we are constantly afraid of being hurt, we build protective walls of opinions and prejudices, which we reinforce through various emotions. We must learn that beneath the erected walls lies the heart that can teach us compassion. We can learn that even in the most difficult times, in the midst of our suffering, bodhichitta can be accessed.
A bodhisattva (compassionate warrior) faces challenging situations to alleviate suffering by training himself to awaken unconditional bodhichitta.
When we embark on the warrior's path, we need courage, openness and compassion to accept our own fears and to dwell in the sore punk, our pain. Openness helps us understand our fears better. If we remain open and receptive to whatever happens, bodhichitta will emerge.
Impermanence, self-indulgence and suffering teach us not to fight against the nature of reality any longer. When we accept impermanence, understand the principles of egotism and the reasons for our suffering, we can stop trying to escape the alternation of joy and pain. We can learn to relax and just be fully present in every moment of our lives.
The bodhichitta training
The central practice for a becoming bodhisattva is cultivating Maitri (unconditional love). The practice of the four limitless qualities: meditation, loving-kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity are tools that can train us to expose the sore spot of bodhichitta.
While sitting, in meditation, we can get closer to our thoughts and emotions and connect with our body. In meditation we accept ourselves as we are with our delusion and sanity (MAITRI). Only when we begin to befriend ourselves does meditation become a transformative process in which we develop four qualities of Maitri:
- Steadfastness (just being in our body, being aware of what is going on in it)
- Clear vision (honesty to ourselves, seeing the barriers we are building)
- accepting our emotional distress without condemning or justifying our experience
- to be completely “there”, moment by moment
These four qualities are also important for all bodhichitta exercises and for dealing with difficult situations in our everyday life.
1.) The exercise “loving kindness” trains us to develop sincerity, love and compassion towards ourselves and to recognize our bigotry. We learn to open our hearts and minds even under difficult circumstances and to recognize when we are creating barriers between ourselves and others. The goal is to develop loving kindness for ourselves first and then to expand it step by step to an ever larger circle. Each level gives us the opportunity to open our hearts a little wider and reveal our ability to love without bias.
2.) To practice compassion, we need the willingness to feel pain, we practice bravery to face the pain. We wish that all beings - including ourselves and those we dislike - may be free from suffering and from the root of suffering. With wishful prayer we can soften our hearts and at the same time - with regard to the moments in which we open up or isolate ourselves - we can become more honest and indulgent with ourselves. Through this practice we gain an ever deeper understanding of the root cause of suffering.
In the practice of tonglens our compassion is extended to all those who are in the same predicament as we are. We are ready to absorb our own suffering and pain, as well as that of others, and send out happiness to ourselves and everyone else. With the practice of tonglen we train ourselves to stop clinging to our selves and worrying about others.
3.) In the wishful prayer to awaken appreciation and joy, we train ourselves to be happy about even the slightest benefit and to appreciate things that life has in store for us. The key is to be fully present in every moment. The combination of mindfulness and appreciation brings us into full contact with reality and gives us joy. We learn to be happy when we think of a loved one and appreciate his or her happiness. Then we practice with people who are less closely related to us. In the individual steps we learn to open our hearts to others and to connect with others.
4.) Cultivating equanimity means that we can accept everything that comes in life (illness, health, poverty, wealth). No matter “what” it is, we welcome it and get to know it.
The practice of the four limitless qualities are ways of awakening bodhichitta. With these exercises we express our willingness to open our hearts and get closer to our fears. They help us develop our ability to stand firm with our experience and learn the difference between a closed and an open mind. We develop the awareness and kindness we need to be able to help others.
The near and distant enemies of the four limitless qualities: attachment, hatred, compassion, overwhelming, cruelty, cockiness, indifference and prejudice - are our teachers who show us that we can accept ourselves and others with all weaknesses.
Forgiveness is also an important part of bodhichitta practice. Through forgiveness, we learn to let go of the past and start over. Forgiveness cannot be forced; it is a natural expression of our open heart, our fundamental goodness.
Text: Eva Bales, Participant in yoga teacher training
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