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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Exercise seven: Do something nice

Posted on Happy Minds!

This exercise is based on the Tibetan practice of Tonglen. I like to keep Tonglen practically, so it really changes your life and is not just some collection of lovely thoughts.

So here's the exercise:
Do something nice for somebody today. And do it for somebody you do not like at all. And do it without expecting anything in return. Do not even expect the interaction you have with this person to improve. At least try it, and carefully notice how you feel. If you cannot do it at the moment supreme, do something nice for yourself. That is: see that you have found one of the reasons that keep you from feeling true compassion. Give yourself the present of not judging yourself for not being able to do it, of welcoming your resistance to the act.
Why? Isn't that a stupid thing to do?

I'll give you some reasons why.

First of all, because we're all just human beings. Look at this smiling baby. We have all been like that. We have changed, but in our core, we are all still like that. We've learned, we've grown, but our DNA has remained the same!

And the person you dislike today could be your friend tomorrow, next year or in your next life. Resentment has never made anybody happy. The past is the past, it can never be changed. The future however, can be very different from the past, but only if you want it to be different. If you do something nice for a person you dislike, it may well be that in the future, you will not have such feelings of loathing and hatred against him or her.

Ask yourself this question: do you really like having these negative feelings? Don't you prefer love, kindness and friendship? If the latter has your preference, why don't you act accordingly? You can never change anybody else but yourself. You do not have to accept bad behaviour by others, but it is also not your "task" to correct, punish or hate them.

To me, this is what Jesus was referring to when he said: You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

—Matthew 5:38-42, NIV

I think it means that you refuse to allow negativity to flood your consiousness, even when facing people who are not treating you right.
When you start fighting back, and allow yourself to have feelings of hatred: no matter the cause, it is you who is responsible. There is nobody else in your mind but you, so it is always you deciding to allow these feelings to arise.

Also read this about tonglen by the hand of Pema Chödrön.

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