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Good Heart, Stability, Spaciousness

March 19, 2011

Hey friends,

Sorry I’ve been lagging so hard on the posting lately. Things have been super busy offline! Political education classes; meet-ups; meetings; paid work (thankfully); etc. etc. This weekend Ryan and I are going camping with a couple friends. Can’t wait to be among those big trees.

Anyway, recently I’ve been feeling re-inspired about the Radical Sangha idea, and wanted to be more vocal here about the particular “dharma doors” I’ve been encountering lately. Now isn’t the ideal time, since I’m headed out the door to a birthday party, but I wanted to quickly pass along this lovely piece (via Mushim Ikeda-Nash‘s Facebook feed) that helped refresh my practice today. It comes from a Tibetan tradition. Sogyal Rinpoche recalls the teachings of Dudjom Rinpoche on the three qualities every human should cultivate: sampa zangpo, tenpo, and lhöpo (a good heart; stability and reliability; and spaciousness, or being at ease with oneself).

The whole piece is worth a read over on Tricycle, but I especially loved these two paragraphs on reliability and spaciousness.

For example, a string of beads has a thread running through all the beads, keeping them together. What we need is a thread too—of sanity* and stability. Because when you have a thread, even though each bead is separate, they hang together. When we have the teachings in us, stabilizing us, there’s a thread to keep our life together that prevents us from falling apart. And when you have this string, you have flexibility, too. That’s how you can have the freedom to be unique and special and individual and still have stability and humor. This kind of character is what we need to develop; this character is the thread.

*Thanks to insightful feminist critique of similar, though slightly worse phrasing in a different Buddhist essay, I now cringe when the word “sanity” gets thrown into pieces like this. It’s not something to take lightly in a society like ours where people are persecuted and violently oppressed because of a perceived lack of “sanity.” So I want to mark that, and yet acknowledge that most people, even on a broad spectrum of neurodiversity and psychodiversity, probably experience moments and phases of greater or lesser stability, characterized by comfortable, firm groundedness that’s not overly rigid.

On spaciousness, Sogyal Rinpoche writes,

If we are at ease with ourselves, we are at ease with others. If we are not at ease with ourselves, then we will be uncomfortable, especially in company. Imagine you find yourself at a smart party in Paris. All kinds of people are there, from different backgrounds, slightly different from you, and one very suave and successful person turns round to greet you. Even the way he says “bonjour” has a supercilious air about it, as he looks down his nose at you condescendingly. If you’re at ease with yourself, there’s no problem. He can drawl “bonjour” and look down on you, and you feel completely fine, because for you it is actually a bon jour, since you are well with yourself.

When we are well with ourselves, then whatever happens, it really doesn’t matter, because we have equilibrium and stability. We don’t feel any lack of confidence. If not, we’re always on edge, waiting to see how someone reacts to us, what people say to us or think about us. Our confidence hangs on what people tell us about how we are, how we look, how we behave. When we are really in touch with ourselves, we know ourselves beyond what others may tell us.

Spaciousness is an especially great asset for political folks, it seems to me. It allows us to face conflict without feeling backed into a corner, trapped and defensive. Far from passivity, I find that spaciousness means a robust engagement with many different dimensions of a situation. It makes room for anger, fear, resentment, and all that fetid stuff: neither repressing it nor allowing it to dominate the entire mental environment.

Very useful — to me, anyway, and I hope to you, too! Have a wonderful weekend, folks; see you Monday.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 19, 2011 9:03 pm

    Awesome article. Thanks for sharing, and have a great time camping!

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