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Posts Tagged ‘shame’


This simple (ha!!) story from The Pocket Pema Chödrön, is on page 72. I love how specifically she details the actions that scared me, all of us, as children. “This is how I make you do what makes me comfortable and keeps you from knowing how important you really are!” could have been the thought bubble over every parent. I know how easy it is to believe that someone, anyone, on the other end of a phone call, my spouse, a clerk in a store, would do these things and I would be powerless. Of course, that is such a ridiculous thought, it adds in the element of shame and “what is wrong with me!?” As I said, “simple??”

HOW TO DEFEAT FEAR

Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to do battle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed too aggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher said she had to do it and gave instructions for the battle.

The day arrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on the other. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big and wrathful. The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?”

Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.”

Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?”

Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.”

In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear.

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I frequently find myself lost. I seldom have a complete  certainty of where I am on the planet. Whether in parking lots, department  stores, or most recently in Golden Gate Park by the museums, if it weren’t for people who know where I happen to be at that moment, and what direction might get me to where I want to go, I wouldn’t “be here now.” It has to be brain damage from… drugs? car accidents? brain surgery? I’ve had them all.

For the most part I have learned not to panic. Being clean and sober, finding myself in  totally foreign landscapes can be a sort of high, at least Twilight  Zone-esque.  I used to feel shame,  frustration, and self-deprecation in these circumstances. I’ve learned to surrender  during these misadventures, telling myself that the spiritual warrior learns to  “enjoy the journey.”

I fear the disorientation may be getting worse. My only hope is that I lean toward the style of  the absent-minded professor whom people find adorable. There is a terrific story about Albert Einstein. He was walking on the Princeton  campus when a student asked him to discuss a theorem. After a cheerful and engaging conversation, Albert said, “And now, if you wouldn’t mind helping  me? When you stopped me, was I walking toward or away from the Science  building?” When the student replied, “Toward, sir.” “Ah,  then I’ve already had my breakfast.”

I once  heard the term pronoid, defined as a  person who has the sneaky suspicion that everyone wants to help her. This is me, how I was raised. My family subscribed to Will Rogers’ philosophy that a  stranger is just a friend you haven’t met. This core orientation allows me to fearlessly ask for directions, and given that I tend to go in circles, often from the same person twice.

There is sufficient scientific evidence proving that assisting other people reduces stress, so perhaps I am doing a service to let  the helpful help me.

At times, I recognize this attitude may be irresponsible, being cavalier about a character defect that I could improve. I’ve avoided putting it on the long list of issues  that bother me much more; those having to do with kindness, acceptance of  things I cannot change and the like.

After hearing my story about being lost in Golden Gate Park, my friend Alice gave me a  portable GPS.  Perhaps my energy would best be spent in learning to program the thing. It’s wonderful also to depend on the kindness my friends.

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