Another Part Of Taking Responsibility Is Gentleness

We have a strong tendency to distance ourselves from our experience because it hurts, but the dharma provides encouragement to move closer to that experience. Although there are lots of words that could be used to explain compassionate action, I’d like to stress the word communication – in particular, communication from the heart.

All activities should be done with the intention of communicating. This is a practical suggestion: all activities should be done with the intention of speaking so that another person can hear you, rather than using words that cause the barriers to go up and the ears to close. In this process we also learn how to listen and how to look. You can practice making your actions, your speech, and your thoughts inseparable from this yearning to communicate from the heart. Everything you say can further polarize the situation and convince you of how separate you are. On the other hand, everything you say and do and think can support your desire to communicate, to move closer and step out of this myth of isolation and separateness that we’re all caught in.

Taking this kind of responsibility is another way of talking about awakening bodhichitta, because part of taking responsibility is the quality of being able to see things very clearly. Another part of taking responsibility is gentleness, which goes along with not judging but rather looking gently and honestly at yourself. There is also the ability to keep going forward. You can just keep on going; you don’t have to get frozen in an identity as a loser or a winner, the abuser or the abused, the good guy or the bad guy. You just see what you do as clearly and as compassionately as you can then go on. The next moment is always fresh and open.

— Pema Chödrön, Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion (pp. 155-156)

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