I Heard it Like This…
Reflections of an inspired talk by Buddhist teacher Joan Halifax.
TEN STEPS ON THE PATH OF SELF AWARENESS
There are ten steps we all can take to enlarge our self awareness. These steps are like strings on an instrument or notes on a piano. We can practice them separately but when played together, we can make beautiful music.
(if you prefer to listen & meditate – there is approx. 30 seconds of silence after the bell, before Alan speaks again; but you can fast-forward if you don’t wish to meditate)
The sixth step is the ability to DISTINGUISH. What are we distinguishing? We are distinguishing self from others. We are becoming more fully aware of our boundaries, how we are separate from others yet deeply interconnected. By distinguishing well, we develop a capacity to moderate excessive distancing from others without collapsing into some form of false merger with them. We become aware of the differences between distancing behavior, empathic over arousal, and compassion.
The Dali Lama tells the story of a man, walking in the forest, who comes upon a person trapped under a huge boulder. The man trapped under the boulder is beginning to panic and has trouble breathing. A response of empathic over arousal would mean that the man not trapped by the boulder also begins to panic and have trouble breathing, leaving him unable to help. Alternately, a person distancing themselves from the situation might avoid it entirely and keep walking on. Compassion would mean helping to remove the boulder. Compassion suggests a degree of distance, close enough to connect us to the suffering but not so close that we mistake ourselves for the person suffering or so distant that we become numb or uncaring.