The first book about Buddhism I ever read was When Things Fall Apart, by Pema Chodron. It affected me very deeply, and from time to time, I re-read it. When I was exploring some teachings about compassion earlier this week, I knew I had to return to it again.
Buddhist words such as compassion and emptiness don’t mean much until we start cultivating our innate ability simply to be there with pain with an open heart and the willingness not to instantly try to get ground under our feet. For instance, if what we’re feeling is rage, we usually assume that there are only two ways to relate to it. One is to blame others. Lay it all on somebody else; drive all blames into everyone else. The other alternative is to feel guilt about our rage and blame ourselves.
… 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. … 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? (pp. 81-83)
This is why we train to watch our minds. This is why we train to be empty as the sky is empty, as a mirror is empty, and only see and hear what is really there in the world. Practice is training, hard training.
Very hard training.