Regret

Pema Chödrön tells a story in one of her books about the Dalai Lama and regret. He’s speaking before an audience and recalls an incident from his past in which a man came to him asking to be a monk. The Dalai Lama told the man it was not possible because of some circumstance; from memory, I think it was that the man was too old to train to be a monk. A little while later, the man took his life in despair about not being able to fulfil his dream.

Stunned, the audience fell quiet and someone raised his hand to ask the Dalai Lama a question, “How did you get rid of the regret?” The Dalai Lama paused and said, “I haven’t. It’s still there.”

The following article from The Guardian is an interesting read about what happened when a woman asked her Twitter audience about their biggest regret. She got a huge response, and the article about her tweet has also had thousands of comments. The answers people give are frank and moving.

My biggest regrets are those times when I’ve been unkind to someone, and, as many other respondents said, that I’ve lived in fear for long periods of my life. As one of the respondents says,

“Yes. Fear. The straitjacket we wear throughout life.

But we can unbuckle it. It might take decades to get to that point, but when you do feel fearless, boy – now that’s living.

I was scared of everyone all my life. Still am a bit. But it no longer stops me.”

Here’s the article: What is your biggest regret?

Image: Symbiosis by Eugenia Loli

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The sanity we are born with

I’m reading The Sanity We Are Born With: A Buddhist Approach to Psychology by Chögyam Trungpa. In my view, Trunga is a genius and his genius lays in understanding human being. The incisiveness, freshness and audacity of his insights is extraordinary, and it’s communicated in language the great prose stylists of literature would envy.

When he first arrived in the West in 1959 aged 20 after fleeing Tibet, Trungpa saw that Buddhist thought and practice would come to the West through psychology, and he had an enduring commitment for the rest of his relatively short life to the meeting of Eastern meditation practice and the Western psychological paradigm.

I’m going to be sharing some of his insights, and today I kick off the series with the following gem, one that disrupts the standard Western view of health professionals at a single stroke.

“The basic work of health professionals in general, and of psychotherapists in particular, is to become full human beings and to inspire full human-beingness in other people who feel starved about their lives.” (p137)

That is, the basic work is not the so-called patient, it’s the health professional themselves.

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Hiding from pain

This is everywhere in our society, and also in me: the absence of unconditional friendliness towards ourselves

“Some people come to community seeking consolation from the pain of feeling unloved by responding to whatever demands are made of them. Unconsciously there is a thought pattern: ‘If I satisfy your need then you, or the community, or God will be grateful, will appreciate my existence, will love me.’ Ultimately this can never bring true fulfilment or true growth. It is important that we are attentive to this response, so easily disguised by generosity and goodness. We must help each person to live more and more clearly and deeply from an inner confidence of being loved by God just as they are.”

~ Jean Vanier, Community and Growth, p132

Image: Up in the Sky, 1997, Tracey Moffatt

To subscribe to daily thoughts from the publications of Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche and winner of the Templeton Prize in 2015, go to his website: http://www.jean-vanier.org/en/home

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“I do not need a mask”

Jean Vanier is the founder of the worldwide community called L’Arche (The Ark), in which people with disabilities and their carers live side-by-side.

It was in 1964 that Vanier, a philosopher, discovered, “a world that I didn’t know anything about … I visited psychiatric hospitals, I visited other institutions, and then I discovered that people with disabilities were amongst the people who are the most oppressed in our world.”

He says what happened next was “very simple.”

“I got a house and I took two people from this institution and we just started living together. Of course there were all the, what I’d call the legal things that I had to go through … But it just began because I just felt that people with disabilities were being cruelly treated and not listened to, not seen as having a gift to give to society, and the weak were just being crushed.”

Vanier says people with disabilities are the teachers of those without disabilities, and the following quotation takes up the theme, pointing out how people with disabilities render him the great service of revealing himself to himself. In what way is this a great service? Because it is the path to peace and freedom. Without it, there is no freedom.

“Disabled persons can reveal to me my tenderness. But they can also reveal to me my hardness. They can reveal to me a world of darkness in me and a capacity to hurt that I don’t want to admit and which I don’t want to accept. But the discovery of my wounds, of my own brokenness, is a source of peace if I accept it, because then I do not have to pretend that I am what I am not. I do not need a mask.”

~ Jean Vanier

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