May 22 Real but not Tue

This Monday Miles will facilitate.  He shares:


The World Has Many High Bridges For Us To Cross


Beginning with Thay's excellent teaching on dealing with fear (and other strong feelings), the topic for Monday's discussion takes another step along this path with the sharing of an intelligent and beautiful dharma talk by the Tibetan (now American too) Buddhist teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche.  


Key background is Thay's teaching that, in the throes of fear, 


"You calm your feeling just by being with it, like a mother tenderly holding her crying baby...You cannot hold your baby all the time and therefore you have to look in to him, to see the cause of what is wrong."

-from Peace is Every Step


Sometimes our fear and our other strong feelings, seem a lot more powerful than a little baby even though, they sometimes act like one.  


In an engaging and even funny talk available here, Rinpoche describes beginning to cross a mostly glass skyway at great height linking two tall buildings.  Suddenly hundreds of feet off the ground, fear gripped him, and he was unable to proceed: should I ask my monk friend to carry me across the skyway?  Jests aside, his cognitive mind (the neocortex) knew it was safe to proceed because other people were happily doing so, but his amygdala (reptilian brain) would have none of it.  Frozen there for a long time, an approach occurred to him; his neocortex "texted" his amygdala, saying "real but not true"-that is, accepting that the fear was real but was based on an inaccurate assessment/perception.  This message from the cognitive mind to the subtle body was wrapped in an envelope of lotus flowers! 


The lotus envelope showed the kindness and non-judgment of the cognitive mind towards the powerful feelings of the amygdala-reptilian brain. Kindness was the key, and the message "real but not true" had to be sent many, many times to really get through. Like Thay's mindful mother "holding the baby", Rinpoche dropped into his body, did not suppress, did not judge, and did not walk away.  Realizing that the fear stemmed from residue of his early life that he tried to comprehend, on the skyway he stayed with his fear and said: I am with you, but I am not joining with you.  So he had compassion for his fear, not empathy; that is, he did not merge with his fear.  There is a dance between being kind and not joining.  Kindness from the cognitive mind opens the emotional mind.  This builds trust, and transformation might happen--at the least, the lotus-enveloped message may get through: "real but not true."  Rinpoche indeed finally crossed the bridge and lived to tell this story.  


On Monday, we can all share our stories of crossing.