October 31, 2013

Tender-Hearted Bravery: The Antidote to Meditation Self-Flagellation. ~ Dr. Paula Watkins

As meditators we spend more and more time free from the ceaseless tide of external distractions.

As we do so, we inevitably become much more familiar with our own minds, our habitual thought patterns, as well as how all this ‘mind stuff’ manifests as sensations in our body and behaviours that we put out into the world.

What do we do with this insight?

According to Buddhist Nun, Pema Chodron, we Westerners are quite renowned for falling into a sticky meditation trap here—I call it self-bullying and it involves us turning our insight against ourselves.

Here’s what it looks like:

We berate ourselves for not having this insight earlier and we criticize ourselves for our perceived ‘weaknesses’. We feel disappointed with how/who we are (or how/who we’ve been) and we denigrate ourselves for the nonsense flowing through our minds and out as our behavior.

And we keep doing this.

Until we don’t.

What if, instead of using our new insight to berate ourselves, we approached each new discovery of self with what Chodrun calls “tender-hearted bravery”?  What would that look like?

First up we need to be brave. That means staying, resisting the urge to flee. Then comes the tenderness, the touch that says “it’s okay”.

Try this next time you discover something uncomfortable within your mind:

1. Stay with it gently but firmly and allow it to be as it is.

2. Touch it tenderly—don’t run away.

3. Pay curious, detailed attention to it (as though you were focused on listening to a child describing an event that deeply hurt them). Notice everything that you can about what you’ve discovered and allow whatever you’ve noticed to ‘just be’.

In fact, create space around it as though you invited it to be there. Hold that space knowing that, whatever the ‘bad thing’ is, it isn’t ‘you’ and it isn’t necessarily ‘true’. While there might be ‘true elements’, the pain/memory/thought is exactly that…just a pain/memory/thought.

4. Be your own best friend, meditate with love and, yes, “tender-hearted bravery”.

You might even go so far as to take great interest and delight in what you find. After all, it is your mindfulness that has enabled you to see this issue—this is the path.


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 Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Dr. Paula Watkins