Pema Chodron's Heart Advice November 13, 2013
ANY ENCOUNTER OFFERS US A CHOICE
This is an idea that seems difficult for Westerners to accept: when someone harms us, they create the cause of their own suffering. They do this by strengthening habits that imprison them in a cycle of pain and confusion. It’s not that we are responsible for what someone else does, and certainly not that we should feel guilty. But when they harm us, we unintentionally become the means of their undoing. Had they looked on us with loving-kindness, however, we’d be the cause of their gathering virtue.
What I find helpful in this teaching is that what’s true for them is also true for me. The way I regard those who hurt me today will affect how I experience the world in the future. In any encounter, we have a choice: we can strengthen our resentment or our understanding and empathy. We can widen the gap between ourselves and others or lessen it.
This is part of Ahimsa: non harming, through action, word or thought. When we harm others, we harm ourselves, even if it's just a nasty thought. The challenge is to maintain understanding and empathy for those who harm us repeatedly, who are relentless in their attacks. I know from my personal experience that when I get pushed to the limit and switch back to anger and resentment, even though someone is unjustly and purposely causing harm, thinking harmful thoughts about that person does more damage to me than to them because I get caught in a negative spiral of hate and anger that ends up engulfing everything, and leads to me acting out in anger, even towards total strangers. The result is always bad for me, but not for the person I am thinking angry thoughts about. However, when I think of that person harming me with compassion instead of anger, understanding why they are hurt and lashing out, I become enveloped in a bubble of love and joy, and my energy is focused on helping them to heal, even if just in my mind. Those positive thoughts and feelings flow out into my life and have a positive effect on me and all those I come in contact with, and it is my glowing smile that becomes contagious instead of anger and harm.
~ La Sirena
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