And he said "I think the most important thing that western dharma practitioners need to understand is guiltlessness."
I said "guiltlessness?"
He said "Yes. You have to understand that even though you make a lot of mistakes and you mess up in all kinds of ways, all of that is impermanent and shifting and changing and temporary. But fundamentally, your mind and heart are not guilty. They are innocent."
So guiltlessness is very important in the subject of dissolving or burning up the seeds of aggression in our own hearts and our own minds.
Most of the striking out at other people, for us in this culture, comes from feeling bad about ourselves. It makes us so wretched and so uncomfortable that it sets off the chain reaction of trying to get away from that feeling. It's some very very habitual thing that happens.
If you got hooked, and then someone was to give you four seconds, or a minute, and then tap you on the shoulder and ask you what that feels like, it feels really bad, it feels like "bad me" and the aggression is turned against yourself.
Maybe if you waited four minutes and tapped them on the shoulder, what it feels like is - they are really wrong, and they did this to me, and its their fault that I'm in this situation.
But somehow, if at that moment, you were to pause, and start breathing and let the whole thing unwind and unravel, and hang out in the impermanent yet ineffable space - if you were to do that you might realize that all of this blaming of other people, when you went into it deeper, you would see that the seed of it was really some deep discomfort and aggression about yourself.
And if you went more deeply into that, you would probably find sadness.
And I quote this so much, this Poem of Rick Fields, where he said:
And if you touch the heart of the fear
You find sadness (it sort of gets more and more tender)
And if you touch the sadness
You find the vast blue sky
This is really what I am encouraging is the next time you feel yourself hooked, if you pause and you breath with it, and you don't act out and you don't repress, but you think of this quote, and you think the ones that will create the new culture that is needed are those that are not afraid to be insecure.
Whatever it is that you think at that moment, maybe this is what it feels like to be burning up the seeds that have caused all the pain on this earth - this is what that feels like.
I always feel that somehow you have to reframe that bad feeling - so that you see it as a doorway to liberation, as an opening to the vast blue sky.
A teaching by Pema Chödrön excerpted from a talk entitled "Practicing Peace in Times of War"
published by Shambhala Publications