Exercises Focusing the Mental Factors on Ourselves and Others

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Background

We are continuing our discussion of how to adjust our mental factors within the context of developing balanced sensitivity.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaks of the different aspects of Buddhism, and he differentiates Buddhist science from Buddhist religion and Buddhist philosophy. Buddhist science and Buddhist philosophy can be of general use to anybody. Buddhist religion refers to the devotional types of practices, refuge, and these sorts of things that are for a Buddhist audience. His Holiness feels that Buddhism has a great deal to offer to the world, without it necessarily being within a Buddhist religious context.

This material about balanced sensitivity seems to fit into the category of Buddhist science. It is an analysis of how the mind works and the different factors that are involved in our interaction with others and with ourselves, in terms of dealing with the general problems that everybody faces. Although the material derives from Buddhist sources, it doesn’t necessarily require any understanding of Buddhism in order to put it into practice and benefit from it. 

What’s very important, however, when studying and learning this type of Buddhist science material is not to reduce all of Buddhism to just another form of psychology. Buddhism, of course, has teachings on psychology, but it’s much, much more, especially when we speak in terms of past and future lives, liberation and enlightenment, and all of those so-called religious aspects of Buddhism. That obviously is going way beyond the sphere of what we normally associate with psychology, and those religious aspects are very integral parts of Buddhism. As long as we recognize Buddhist science for what it is, as Buddhist science, then there’s no confusion, and it’s not being unfair or disloyal to Buddhism as a whole system or religion.

Also, this system of balanced sensitivity that I developed is not found in traditional Buddhist sources. Each of the little pieces within the system can be found in the Buddhist sources, but the way that it’s put together, the way that it is applied, and so on, is a Western development. That is perfectly fine if we look at a much larger, historical context, because as Buddhism has developed over history, it has gone into different fields. A good example is the study of logic and debate. That wasn’t developed originally at the time of the Buddha, but because logic and debate were prevalent in India many centuries after the Buddha, then Buddhism, of course, used logic and debate in order to help people of that time gain the various spiritual goals that are discussed in Buddhism. Today, as well, logic and debate are still relevant for helping others to think clearly and realistically, 

I hope this background makes things a little bit clearer in terms of what we have been studying so that there isn’t any confusion about it.

The Importance of Having Balanced Sensitivity When Interacting with Others

We have already discussed the ten mental factors that occur in each moment of cognition. Everybody agrees that the first five factors occur in each moment of cognition, and in some Buddhist presentations, all ten are considered present in each moment. We’re following that latter explanation. We have also seen that each of these mental factors covers a whole spectrum. For example, paying attention can range from almost no attention to paying 100% attention. This means that we can change the levels, either increasing or decreasing any of these factors, as we determine what would be helpful in a situation. To achieve a balance of all these factors in our interactions with others and in dealing with ourselves can be very helpful.

Remember, our sensitivity field of study has to do with paying attention and responding to the situations of others and ourselves, and the effect of our behavior on others and ourselves. That means that in an interaction with somebody, first, before we actually engage in that interaction, it’s very important to check out the condition of the other person: Are they busy? Are they tired? Are they in a good or bad mood? These are very important in order to be able to have a positive interaction with the other person that goes well. The same thing applies in terms of our own situation. When we are going to meet somebody, do we feel stressed? Are we still upset about what happened earlier in the day? Are we really tired?

We need to pay attention to all these things, to note them, and if it’s possible to change the mood that we’re in, and then do that. Very often what happens in an interaction is that we bring along the mood and whatever it was that was affecting us during the day, and we project it onto the other person. Let’s say we’re upset about something else, and then we get upset with this person. This is totally unfair, isn’t it? When we come home in a bad mood, and we are not really able to change that, then it’s very important to be honest. We can explain to whomever it is at home that we’re in a bad mood, had a tough day today, and need a little rest before we talk or have dinner or whatever. Be perfectly honest. Then, everything is much easier. We’re sensitive to the other person and to ourselves.

In addition, during any interaction, we need to really pay attention to how what we’re saying and how we’re acting is affecting the other person. We need to see if they are getting uptight. What’s the expression on their face? Are they starting to get a little bit angry? This type of thing is very important in order to have good communication. We can make adjustments. Similarly, we need to pay attention to how the way we’re acting and speaking and the way they’re acting and speaking is  affecting us. Are we getting really uptight? Are we starting to get defensive? If we’re starting to get defensive, then stop, that’s totally inappropriate.

These sensitivity issues can be very essential in terms of communication and what we can do to make it better. One of the ways – what we’re studying here and learning – is working with the mental factors.

Exercises with Photographs of Other People

As mentioned in the previous session, we are going to work now with photos. There are some photos posted up here from magazines and we’re going to practice with them, particularly how we can change and adjust our mental factors. Also, as I explained earlier, the two wings that all these exercises fly on are the quiet mind and the caring attitude. There are special exercises, of course, for helping us to develop that quiet mind and caring attitude, so it’s a little bit unfair to just assume that with no practice we have accomplished that. However, it really is important to be able to have a bit of experience before trying to do this type of adjustment of our mental factors out there in the real world.

We’ll look at these photos and try to focus on just one at a time.

The first thing, which is probably the most difficult, is to focus on one at a time, with a quiet mind. That means without making any comments or judgments; just be open. Quiet means being open. Of course, we can look simultaneously at more than just one, but it’s best to focus on just one at a time. And when mental comments come up, if they do, then try to just let them go. One of the easiest methods for this is to imagine that these mental comments are leaving us as we breathe out. What is also helpful with this is to have our hand in a fist and then just open it up, and, in that type of movement, let go and breathe out.

Next, we add to that what we call the caring attitude. We view these people in the photos with the attitude that, “You’re a human being, and you have feelings, just as I do. The way I treat you and the way I speak to you is going to affect your feelings, just as the way that you speak to me and treat me is going to affect my feelings. Therefore, I take you and your feelings seriously. I care about you and your feelings.” There’s a certain level of respect that’s part of this caring attitude. Because we care, we are not going to make up stories about the person. We’re not going to comment or prejudge. We care about the person and their feelings. That’s the basic state of mind with which we approach others. Ideally, it is open, caring and nonjudgmental.

Following this, we try to consciously generate the motivated urge to relate to the person  – that means an urge motivated by an intention to relate with them accompanied by the emotion of sincere concern for them. Imagine we’re going to meet them. We need to talk to them. When we walk into a room, we’re going to have to deal with this person. It’s not that we’re going to ignore this person. This motivated urge, like a magnet, will draw us, in the next moment, into relating to and dealing with this person whether or not, beforehand, we felt like doing that. We can generate that intention, emotion and urge even if we don’t feel like interacting with this person. For instance, we are working in a store and this person comes to buy something from us. We need to have the intention to deal with them, the emotion of concern, and the urge that will draw us into an interaction with them, so as to handle the transaction with this person.

Then, we distinguish various aspects of how the person in the photo looks and what he or she is doing. We distinguish the expression on their face, for example. We don’t have to give it a name. We don’t have to say it. Nevertheless, this is what we distinguish in looking at the person, as opposed to distinguishing what they’re wearing. In distinguishing it, we pay attention to it as something meaningful and not just something interesting. It is something meaningful for helping us to know how to approach the person.

Next, try to feel that it is pleasant to come in contact with this person, who is another human being with whom we can have some meaningful interaction. As it says in the Buddhist teachings, we need to regard each person that we meet as if a precious gem. Here is someone that could become our best friend, that could help us in all sorts of ways, and we could help them. We never know.

Then, generate the interest to try to understand what he or she is feeling by reaffirming our concern to relate to the person. It is noteworthy that the more interested we become, then naturally our mindfulness and concentration increase. In other words, our attention keeps hold of this person and stays there the more interested we become.

Subsequently, with discrimination, try to decide what mood the person is in and whether this is a good time to talk. Then consciously set the intention to approach, adjust, or delay the meeting accordingly. What are we going to talk about? If it’s something deep and meaningful, this might not be the best time. Obviously, how we would relate and speak to the little boy in the magazine picture would be quite different from how we would relate and speak to an adult. These are the types of things we need to discriminate. And then we can adjust our way of relating. We intend to relate to the level that is appropriate to this person.

If we had to explain something to each person in these magazine photos, we would probably have to explain it differently to each of them, wouldn’t we? The ability to do that depends on being able to distinguish who they are, their characteristics and their mood. Actually, it’s because we care about communicating with them that we discriminate what would or wouldn’t be appropriate, and then intend to speak and explain in that way.

Exercise Directions: Photographs of Other People

Just focusing on one person:

  • No comments, no judgments, no stories
  • Motivated urge to relate to person – “I care about you. I care about your feelings.”
  • Distinguishing
  • Attention
  • Contacting awareness
  • Feeling
  • Interest
  • Mindfulness, concentration
  • Discrimination
  • Intention

By the way, concerning this point about adjusting the pleasant contacting awareness and happiness, one of the things that we have to notice is our own body language. What’s going on with our brow? Is it sort of wrinkled up, looking to the other person as if we were angry, tense, or nervous? Are our shoulders up? We need to relax, feeling this is pleasant. This is okay.  

For example, if somebody comes to see us and we’re sitting with our arms crossed with a wrinkled forehead and brow, it looks very judgmental, like we are closed off and unapproachable. When our arms are down and our brow is relaxed, it’s much more welcoming. The body language really communicates quite a lot. Obviously, in different situations different types of body language are appropriate. When we’re getting together to play a rough sport, our body language is quite different from when we’re together with somebody to have a chat.

Let’s try this again one last time with a different person among these photos and a quiet mind. It’s very interesting to note our prejudices because very often we find that we’re naturally more open to one or another of the people in these photos. From just the way that somebody looks, we tend to be a little bit more open or closed. Take note of that. It’s helpful to practice this with one of the people in these photos that we really didn’t particularly want to look at and we think we wouldn’t really want to meet this person. Then, already we have some prejudice just simply on the basis of what they look like, which is quite odd, isn’t it? It could be based on age, gender, cultural background, and many other things. Please try to choose someone that you find a little bit difficult this time.

Again, just focusing on one person:

  • Quiet mind
  • Caring attitude
  • Motivated urge to relate
  • Distinguishing
  • Attention
  • Pleasant contacting awareness
  • At least some feeling of happiness. Basically, relax.
  • Interest
  • Mindfulness and concentration
  • Discrimination
  • Intention

Okay, let’s just take a moment to quiet down from that.

Questions and Answers

Are there any questions or comments?

Dealing with Mental Verbalizing and Hearing Music in Our Heads

I recognize that I started commenting before you were finished, and I was asked to please wait to comment. How should I deal with such an attitude?

For many of us, it’s like we are a radio broadcaster at a sports event and we’re describing and commenting on everything that goes on. The first thing, of course, is to recognize that we’re doing that and to realize and understand that actually it makes a barrier between ourselves and others. It’s like there’s a little “me” sitting in the back of our head commenting all the time, and so we’re not really directly relating to people, or situations, or whatever’s going on around us. We need to see the disadvantage of it.

Also, it’s important to realize that understanding and mentally verbalizing are not necessarily the same. We can understand something without having to verbally express it in our head. For example, we can understand that a situation is dangerous. Let’s say that we want to cross the street and there’s a lot of traffic. We understand that it’s dangerous and we have to be careful. We don’t have to say that in our head in order to understand that, do we?

Another approach can be helpful for some people, but not someone with low self-esteem. Let’s say we’re standing to cross the street, and we start to comment, “Wow, what a big truck!” We can notice that it’s just stupid. Why do we have to verbalize in our head, “What a big truck!”? However, clearly if a person had low self-esteem, then it could be yet another way of putting themselves down and that’s not so helpful. If low self-esteem was not an issue, and we think about it, we notice that there is no point in commenting that this is a big truck. Of course, it’s a big truck.

Nonetheless, where we find it much more difficult to quiet the mind than just talking in our heads is when a song or melody goes through our head over and over again. This, we find, is one of the most difficult things to quiet down.

Typically, we don’t even like the song.

It could be something we don’t like. Actually, there’s a certain attachment that causes us to sing one particular song and not another. It could be an association with something that we used to like as a teenager, or whatever. To change that, we really have to become disgusted with it. At least for myself, what I find helpful to get disgusted with something is to think that I’m just being like a cricket. When the sun goes down, this insect just automatically makes this really loud, horrible noise. It has no control over it. I think, “I’m like a cricket.” That often helps. In fact, we find in Buddhist material the method of making a ridiculous example, and when we see how ridiculous it is, that helps us to overcome a shortcoming.

The method of letting go is usually not that effective in dealing with a song. There are deeper levels of methods that we can use coming from mahamudra and dzogchen teachings, but they’re not that easy to apply:

  • With mahamudra, we have this image of being the ocean, and this song or whatever is like a wave on the ocean, and we try to feel being the whole ocean and the wave settling down.
  • The dzogchen method is to try to imagine this music, the notes, the words of the song, being like writing on water. It arises and disappears simultaneously.

Try that with a verbal sentence: “I wonder what time it is.” Say it mentally very slowly, one syllable at a time, and imagine it like writing on water and, as we say it, it disappears. Just let it flow naturally. Don’t force anything. What happens? It just stops, doesn’t it? We really would have to put a great deal of effort to get the next syllable. This is a dzogchen method, and it’s very effective but requires a bit of training and discipline. Actually, the most difficult aspect is to remember to apply it. We can say, “This is stupid. I’m like an insect. This is absurd,” and then apply a method.

Another method, much easier to apply and also effective, is instead of fighting that verbal energy in our mind, to flip it, in a sense, and harness that verbal energy to recite a mantra instead. That also requires a lot of effort. It’s actually quite interesting when we try it because then it’s almost like a fight between the two. Which is going to be stronger, that song trying to come back up again or the mantra? We really have to keep that mantra going for a long time before the song doesn’t come back.

What’s the difference between the mantra and the song?

The mantra at least is a steady rhythm, but one could say the song is a steady rhythm. However, associated with the mantra – let’s say if we’re doing “om mani padme hum,” we try to focus on compassion. It’s not just like a tape recorder reciting a mantra. We put the whole thing together with visualization or at least with compassion with “om mani padme hum,” or a feeling of clarity of mind if we’re doing Manjushri’s mantra.

In theory, we could harness our verbal energy to do anything, and it probably would be just as effective. For instance, to count to a hundred in our head, that probably would also stop the song by the time we got to a hundred. However, if we’re going to use our mind to do something to stop singing a song in our head, we might as well use it for something more constructive than counting to a hundred.

Okay. Any other questions or comments?

Should we also stop this mental verbalizing when we are trying to generate an intention, for example, and when we are analyzing whether we should approach the person, and so forth?

Optimally, we should be able to function completely without mental verbalization. We’re able to do very complex tasks without having to verbalize each step that we’re doing. When we drive a car, we’re not verbalizing every little thing: “Now I’m going to turn the wheel this number of centimeters.” We certainly don’t verbalize that and all the rules that we have to follow while driving. The same thing is true while we’re using the computer: “Now I’m going to press down this key with that finger and now that key with that finger.” We certainly don’t verbalize that. However, there’s intention involved, there’s discrimination, there’s distinguishing one key from another, etc. All these mental factors are working.

Actually, one can go deeper here in the analysis. What is behind this verbalization, besides habit, of course, that keeps it going?  It is the belief that if we verbalize it, we make it real. For example, do we have to say, “I love you,” in order for our love for someone to be real? Then, do we have to hear from someone, “I love you,” in order for that to be real? It’s interesting to analyze. Does verbalizing something make it more real? Think about that a moment. I think the example that’s the strongest is in terms of “I love you.”

Of course, out of consideration to the other person, one would say, “I love you.” That’s not the problem. The problem is when it becomes obsessive and compulsive, that we have to say it, and then we get really upset if someone doesn’t say it to us every day. Then, we have a problem.

Being Flexible in Our Interactions

I suppose different people discriminate differently. Are these projections or what?

Different people discriminate differently. Are these different projections? Do you mean to discriminate, for instance, on what to do, what is the mood, and so on?

Yes.

Of course, we would each discriminate differently because we don’t have complete information. Yes, part of that is projection. Only a Buddha would have complete information.

I think the analogy of a card game is helpful here. We need to have some idea at least of which card to play first. But then, in terms of the interaction and asking for more information and so on, we either validate our discrimination or we change it. However, in any interaction, we have to know the first card to play, don’t we? We don’t plan out our whole strategy beforehand. Then, we’re inflexible. We have to always be very flexible in an interchange with others.

The same thing applies in terms of being by ourselves. We’re in a bad mood, for example. We discriminate that we’re in a bad mood and why, or whatever. That can be helpful, but sometimes it doesn’t really matter. We have some strategy to try to change the mood that we’re in. However, one of the teachings involved in concentration meditation is to know when to stop applying the opponent. We can see when we’re feeling better, and then we don’t have to continue eating or taking a break or whatever it is.

Exercises Aimed at Ourselves

Okay, let’s do the exercise aimed at ourselves.

For these exercises, we’ll need a mirror. There are two phases of this practice – one with a mirror, one without a mirror. For those who do not have a mirror, I can offer these two mirrors. I was concerned about that actually. I have two mirrors, and it might be better not to share them with two people because other people might think, “Why did he give it to these people and not to me?” However, the easiest, laziest thing is to just give it to the two people that are closest to where I’m sitting.

This is distinguishing. What am I distinguishing here? Answer? By choosing who to give the mirrors to, what am I distinguishing?

Interest.

Interest from the people? No. A lot of people raised their hands to show that they didn’t have a mirror. What did I distinguish?

Initiative?

Initiative? No. I distinguished who was sitting closest to me. I didn’t distinguish who was the prettiest. I didn’t distinguish which are the women, which are the men. There are a lot of things I could have distinguished in order to choose whom I give the mirrors to. There could be somebody I like or somebody that I know. There are many things we could distinguish. I just distinguished who was sitting closest to me.

But first, you distinguished what is fair.

No, that was discrimination. I discriminated what was fairer, to not share the mirrors or to give them to somebody, but it was based on distinguishing what to do with these mirrors. And then, with certainty, the decision, “Okay, I’m going to give it to others.” But as I said, there are many things that we could distinguish here. For example, who could I trust that will give me back the mirror and not keep it?

Why we are analyzing so much about whether we should give it or not when we can simply just give it to somebody?

That’s true. We could do that, but here’s the problem. It’s that some people might feel very hurt and jealous that I gave it to someone else and not to them. Also, we’re just using this as an example to illustrate the factor of distinguishing. It’s not such a big deal. The method that one wants to learn from all of this is to be able to deconstruct any experience that’s happening into all the component mental factors and to then see that we can adjust this one or that one to improve the situation. The main thing to learn is to be able to analyze and to deconstruct.

So, what is the intention? The intention is to give the mirror to somebody. When I go into a situation, do we have any intention? Look within to determine, What is our intention? Then, we are ready to adjust. If our intention was to apologize to someone, then we have to distinguish if the person is open to receiving our apology, or are they really still in a very aggressive state of mind. If that’s the case, we have to use some slightly different tactics, such as maybe to avoid the whole topic for the moment. Still, our intention is to apologize. We want to apologize. However, now we have to change our intention to not make it worse, for example, by saying something now. Let the other person cool down. We need to know what to adjust and what to change.

But that’s just a mental exercise. It won’t come from the heart.

With training and familiarity, it does come naturally from the heart. Anything that we do, we have to train. We learn to play a musical instrument, to drive a car, whatever. In the beginning it is artificial. That’s just the nature of how we train to do something. Then, it becomes natural. To play the piano we always have to look at the keys in the beginning, or to type we always have to look at the keys, but then after a while we know, and so it’s just natural. We don’t even have to look.

Let’s move on. If we have a mirror, then use the mirror. If we don’t have a mirror, it doesn’t matter. Now, for most of us, to look at ourselves in the mirror and not make a comment is very challenging. Don’t go on the trip of “Beauty and the Beast.” We aren’t looking at our degree of beauty or thinking that this beast in the mirror is not the real “me.”

  • The basic start is to just quiet down. If we don’t have a mirror, just quiet the mind.
  • Next, is the caring attitude. “I’m a human being, like everybody else. I have feelings, like everybody else. The way I treat myself affects my feelings, how I feel. It affects the mood I’m in. So, I take myself seriously. I care about myself. I care about my feelings. I care about how I treat myself.”
  • Then, we have the motivated urge, out of concern for ourselves, to check: “How am I doing? How do I feel?” That draws us into checking. 
  • Next, we try to distinguish various aspects. If we’re looking in a mirror: “How do I look? Do I look tired? Do I look stressed?” Even without a mirror: “How do I feel? Do I feel tired? Do I feel stressed? Do I feel nervous? Do I feel frightened?”
  • Pay attention to what we distinguish as being meaningful or important. We have to deal with it. Try not to verbalize. That’s difficult, I know.
  • Try to find paying attention to this as something pleasant. “I’m happy to have some idea of how I’m feeling, and I am happy to be with myself. I’m at peace. I’m happy that I’m taking the time to check how I’m doing.”
  • Reaffirm or generate the interest to understand what we’re feeling by reaffirming our concern. Therefore, naturally, our attention stays there with mindfulness and concentration.
  • Then, discriminate what we could do to improve the situation if something is not in order. It could be taking a rest, relaxing more, working harder, getting help if needed, whatever it might be.
  • Then, we have the intention to implement that, to put it into practice and actually do it.

To repeat again:

  • Quiet Mind
  • Caring attitude 
  • Motivated by that care, the urge to check up and deal with how we’re doing.
  • Distinguishing
  • Attention
  • Pleasant contacting awareness. Happiness.
  • Interest, mindfulness, and concentration
  • Discrimination
  • Intention

If a mirror has been used, please put the mirror down and repeat without the mirror:

  • Quiet mind
  • Caring attitude
  • Motivated urge
  • Distinguishing.
  • Attention: “This is meaningful.”
  • Pleasant contacting awareness
  • A level of happiness that we’re actually dealing with ourselves and our situations. Therefore, relax your shoulders, relax your brow.
  • Interest, mindfulness, and concentration
  • Discrimination about what we need to do
  • And the intention to do it in order to feel more balanced in our life.

With training, we’re able to do this at any time and all at once. In other words, if we’re in a situation and we’re feeling stressed, we just notice what we’re feeling and do whatever we need to do in order to relax and not feel so stressed. Or, if we’re feeling very excited and it’s not appropriate, or we’re getting angrier and it’s troubling or frightening the other person, we notice that, and we’re interested in changing that. We have an intention to change that. We distinguish that and we discriminate what is needed. We need to slow down, not speak so quickly, and lower our tone of voice. Thereby, we have the intention to do this and we do it.

In fact, we are perfectly capable of doing just that. When we drive a car or ride a bicycle, we’re doing that all the time. We adjust to the speed of the other cars or the road or whatever. We use all these mental factors, and we adjust it, and we don’t have to go through a very detailed process because we just do it almost instantaneously. This is what we want to be able to train ourselves to do in our interactions with others, and even while we’re just sitting and working alone.

However, as I’ve mentioned several times, and can’t stress enough, we need to do this without this feeling of a separate “me.” It’s not as though there’s a separate “me” sitting in the car, or sitting on the bicycle, driving and adjusting. Just do it. There’s not some little “me” sitting inside our head at the control booth and pressing the buttons.

Are there any final questions or comments?

Dealing with Unpleasant Situations

If we’re going to meet somebody who in the past has always created a very unpleasant situation or has unpleasant feelings toward us, how do we deal with that?

First of all, we need to adjust our attitude: As we go into the situation, although there’s the pattern that they have always been very negative toward us, that doesn’t mean that they definitely will always be negative toward us. On the other hand, we have to be careful because probably they will be negative toward us. Nevertheless, we need to be open to the fact that they could change.

Now, one of the trainings is to realize that this person who’s always negative toward us is also a human being and wants to be happy, doesn’t want to be unhappy, just like us. They are negative toward us because, obviously, something is bothering them. They’re unhappy. A person usually can’t be happy while being negative, unless they’re a sadist or something like that with a whole different set of problems. However, basically something is really disturbing this person and it is why they are acting in this way. As a person, we wish they would stop, and that actually means that we wish that they would be happy. That’s the definition of love, the wish for them to be happy. Instead of having the attitude of hurting them back, or just running away, at least the basic foundation is that we wish that they could be happy so that they would be in a better mood and treat us better. There’s a little bit of self-interest there.

Then, we can distinguish the causes for them to have this negative attitude toward us. Is it something in our behavior? Is it some factors from their side? If it’s something on our side, and if it’s something that we can change, and it’s reasonable to change, then change. If it’s not reasonable to change, then we can’t. For instance, we got the job, and they didn’t get the job. That’s, obviously, not something that we can change. It’s just a fact. However, if it’s something that is on our side and it can be changed, then we change, if it’s reasonable. When it’s something that we can’t change or it’s something from their side that’s always putting them in a bad mood, then worrying about it and getting upset about it is not going to help. We can’t really change it. That’s the situation and we try to avoid provoking them. Just keep a low profile, in a sense. If we know what is going to make them even more upset, don’t do that. Don’t rub it in, as we say. The strategy depends on the situation. Are they jealous of us? Or are they angry with what we did? If they’re angry with what we did, then apologize.

It’s almost the same as escaping.

Try to escape? If there’s nothing we can do to actually change the situation, then sure, try to avoid it. Escape, in that sense. However, if there is something that we can do, don’t run away. Try to improve the situation. One line that I find very helpful is: “Not everybody liked the Buddha. So, what do I expect for myself, that everybody is going to like me?” There are people that don’t like us. There are people jealous of us or whatever. That’s life. What can we do?

To conclude, if there is something we can do, do it. If there’s nothing that can be done, then don’t worry. Just try to avoid them, although that’s not so easy when it’s a member of our family, or so on, that we can’t really avoid.

Conclusion

Okay, that brings us to the end. The main thing to try to learn from all of this is that sensitivity needs to be balanced, not oversensitive and not insensitive. 

Regarding ourselves:

  • Not to be oversensitive and every minute obsessing about ourselves and others. Not to have this attitude that we have to tell everybody what we feel. We don’t have to share it with the world, as if anybody really cares how we feel about this or that. They don’t, unfortunately. However, sometimes we need to share. We need to tell somebody that what they said yesterday really hurt us, or that we really feel badly about something. Sometimes, that is absolutely necessary.
  • Alternatively, don’t be insensitive. We don’t have to broadcast our upsets on our Facebook page: “This person said this to me yesterday and I really feel hurt about that.” On the other hand, we may have to say something to that person. Don’t be insensitive. Pay attention to that, because it could grow stronger and stronger. Feeling hurt and so on can become a grudge and jeopardize many things in our life. 

Balancing our sensitivity in terms of ourselves, others, situations, the effect of our behavior and so on, can make life go much more easily.

If we are practicing in the context of a Buddhist spiritual path, these are very important skills to learn. Our aim, the motivation, is to be able to learn and practice this in order to be of best help to everybody and reach liberation or enlightenment.

We end with a dedication. Whatever understanding, whatever positive energy has come from this discussion, may it go deeper and deeper and act as a cause to reach enlightenment. We do this in a Buddhist sense, to be of best help to everyone, with a more balanced sensitivity. Thank you very much.

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