Revisit these teachings using the links below...
Daily Teachings for Resilience and Courage
Day 7 Resources - Saturday, November 7th
Self Mangement & Emotional Intelligence with Daniel Goleman
Teaching Transcript: The model of emotional intelligence that I find most useful for self-awareness and self-management, you could say mindfulness, you could say meditation. Those are very powerful tools for self-awareness and self-management. It means emotional self-management; keeping your upsetting, distressing emotions under control. Using them as sources of wisdom if they have something to tell you, but not obsessing about them. That’s when they get paralyzing. And also, marshaling your positive emotions, your positive motivation, your optimism, your love for people, your compassion.
And then secondly, empathy: being aware of others, tuning in to other people, having rapport, positive relationships and interactions. Leaving other people feeling better after an interaction, no matter what it might be. And putting it all together for a nourishing relationship. That’s really what I mean by emotional intelligence, and it has different levels, you know. It’s come into schools under what’s called “Social Emotional Learning,” as we were talking about.
It turns out to be surprisingly popular, at least to me, in the workplace and in the leadership world. Because it turns out that the bosses you loved working for, who actually get the best work out of a team, are the bosses who are emotionally intelligent. Think about the worst boss you ever had. That person is not emotionally intelligent. If you think about what made them so bad - I’ve done this around the world with all kinds of groups - tell me about the best boss you’ve ever had, and the worst boss you’ve ever had. And it’s always like the best bosses just describes emotional intelligence, and the worst bosses the opposite of that. And it surprised me, but it’s very powerful.
There’s also a spiritual dimension to those four domains. One, you know, self-awareness and self-reflection, delving deeply into your core being is the essence of spiritual practice. And then putting that into effect in managing yourself, your own life, self-discipline, right living, whatever the term may be. And then empathy, which is the basis for compassion. And then operating with skillful means in the world because of all that. Those are all the spiritual level of the same thing.
Day 6 Resources - Friday, November 6th
"Cultivating Compassion" - Thupten Jinpa
"Compassion is a very natural impulse that we have, and it's a natural sense of concern that arises in us in the face of a pain or a need or suffering, and accompanied with the wish to see the relief of that situation, or wanting to do something about it." - Thupten Jinpa
Teaching Transcript: One of the points I was trying to make is that, you are right, compassion is something that most of us think that we know about, and also we often take it for granted. And also we have to admit that we, as human beings, as societies, we have been fascinated and intrigued by compassion for a very long time.
You know, if you look at all the major world religious traditions, most of the traditions have something to say about compassion, most traditions put compassion at the center of their ethical teaching. And so on the other hand, in our own personal life, we tend to leave compassion more at the level of response, something that happens to us, something that is triggered. And it becomes like any other responses that we are capable of: anger, when we are provoked we get angry, when we are confronted with a pain, we feel compassionate, so most of us tend to leave it at that but the point I was trying to make is that compassion is in fact one of the most important instincts that is part of our natural makeup. And that is rooted from an evolutionary point of view, the nurturing, caring part of our nature and that has got to be so powerful and important in defining who we are and shaping who we are.
And although it does happen naturally, human beings are very complicated creatures, we are one of the few creatures that have various high level self-awareness and we tend to tell stories about ourselves. And unfortunately in the modern secular scientific-based story of who we are we have kind of left compassion out. So in this book I was trying to bring many of these trends together.
Compassion's place in our fundamental nature, compassion's place in our self-definition of who we are. And then also compassion as part of our basic motivation system, because when we are confronted with any situation we have a choice: we can respond to that situation out of fear, or out of anger, out of blame, out of judgment, but we also have an opportunity to respond out of compassion. So compassion is, in that sense, an important part of our motivation system. So the point about cultivating is not so much learning to be compassionate, we don't have to learn compassion from religion or school because it's there, but where training is important is to really make compassion a more conscious part of our attention and also make it part of our intention so that it shapes our motivation system. And also, ideally, to make it our base default standpoint.
So this is what I mean by a basic stance, so that for example if you look at someone like His Holiness, his default position is compassion. So whatever happens in his life, his first response is going to come from that standpoint. And then if the situation calls for something else, like a kind of tougher approach, then that will come later. So this we can learn through cultivation, through training, and it's kind of a habituation. Through habituation we learn to be in a particular way. So those are the things I was trying to make clear in the compassion and cultivation training.
So, as I mentioned in the book and also mentioned earlier, compassion is a very natural impulse that we have, and it's a natural sense of concern that arises in us in the face of a pain or a need or suffering, and accompanied with the wish to see the relief of that situation, or wanting to do something about it. And of course it's easier to feel this to someone to whom you care, because in order to generate compassion you need to be able to identify with the other, you need to be able to make the connection, and that's one of the reasons why we are able to feel compassion and love for our loved ones, because we are identified with them. And also in the case of total strangers, when someone has been, say for example, hit by a car in front of us and they're bleeding and screaming, at that moment most of us are capable of experiencing compassion instantaneously, and that's because acute suffering is such a powerful connector, we are able to identify, we are able to cut through all the categories that we generally construct to individuate us from others. But the acute pain and suffering is such a powerful connector because it's such a powerful indicator of our basic sentient nature.
So when we are confronted with such a sight like that, even a total stranger who has no connection with us, we are able to feel it. But otherwise, it's more difficult to extend to someone that you don't know. And that's why, in the Buddhist tradition, as you expand the circle of concern through your compassion meditation, one of the main emphasis is really placed on, in the Stanford program we call it "Cultivating Appreciation of Common Humanity" - so the idea that just like me, this person doesn't want to suffer, just like me, this person wishes to be happy.
So, trying to cultivate, not just an intellectual ascent to that proposition, but ideally kind of a gut-level appreciation of the basic humanity of the "other" - and this is where much of the effort goes in, because once you're able to make that connection, then it's easier to generate compassion. So then of course it's harder comparing the loved ones to a stranger, it's harder to a difficult person, and it's even more harder to some ruler like Mao Zedong, who had done so much damage to the whole population of Tibet, and many millions of Chinese as well. He was a horrible man. So of course in someone like Mao Zedong, the challenges of being able to generate compassion is even harder because you have to allow ourselves to see the basic humanity of even someone like Mao. And so that's where the cultivation and the practice really comes in.
Day 5 Resources - Thursday, November 5th
"Change is a Vehicle for Growth." - Ram Dass
"If you see change as an opportunity for awakening you’ve got the game beat. The deeper you are connected within, the more you are willing to deal with what is the more free you will be of the anxiety that is connected with change. As long as you are identified with anything external and think you need it for your own security, your own comfort, your own existence, for the essence of you, you are going to be frightened." - Ram Dass
Teaching Transcript: Part of what is generated in this society, the fear, because of the imminence of the changes of lifestyle, which may come from energy, reallocation of resources throughout the world...if you can see them as an opportunity for growth, instead of something horrible. If you see change as an opportunity for awakening you’ve got the game beat.
You are going to grow old and die, you may be wealthy one moment and broke the next.
But he deeper you are connected within, the more you are willing to deal with what is, the more free you will be of the anxiety that is connected with change.
When you are riding on the pinnacle of affluence, you feel like king-of-the-mountain, and afraid you are going to fall off any time. You have to treat other people as “them” in order to protect yourself from falling off the mountain. So all third world countries have those “encroaching beings” which we have to keep at arms length by throwing a crust every now and then to we keep them cool so they won’t come and take what we got. Because we are 6% of the population using 40% of the natural resources of the world at the moment.
You and I are going to face some dramatic changes because there are other people who have little red buttons they can push besides us. And the question of how you deal with social change, because the people that are going to be able to bring in this culture a quiet, clear wisdom and consciousness are people who are primarily not motivated by fear. And the way you extricate yourself from fear is to be centered quietly in your being and realize that what you are is enough. And the way it is is enough.
You and I may meet next time, under a bridge, eating putride food out of a rusty tin can after the apocalypse. And after we get over the shaky quality of it, I may say to you “Are you here? Well here we are? Pretty far out isn’t it?” And this too. And this too. Hold on tightly, let go lightly. Hold on tightly, let go lightly.
It’s almost a good mantra, change is a vehicle for growth. As long as you are identified with anything external and think you need it for your own security, your own comfort, your own existence, for the essence of you, you are going to be frightened.
Day 4 Resources - Wednesday, November 4th
"Faith & Trust" with Roshi Joan Halifax & Jack Kornfield
"That sense of groundlessness, of the slipperiness of existence, is really powerful to come to terms with. So when I say trust, I’m not looking for a simple kind of trust, it’s more the trust that arises in the experience of waking up." - Roshi Joan Halifax
Teaching Transcript: The word "trust" is really beautiful because the root of it relates to the same word for dharma, that which is firmly established.
And one thing we can be sure about is that this body will die. We can trust in that. And another thing that we’re asked, but doesn’t necessarily happen for us, is our practice is about developing some quality of wisdom that allows us to see the truth of impermanence; that all things are in constant change. All things are transient.
Anything that you have now will pass from you. And that sense of groundlessness, of the slipperiness of existence, is really powerful to come to terms with. So when I say trust, I’m not looking for a simple kind of trust, it’s more the trust that arises in the experience of waking up.
"I would put Buddha on one arm for calm and clarity and steadiness. And I’d put the bodhisattva of compassion, Quan Yin, on my other arm to keep my heart open. I’d say, 'Alright, we’re going to do this together.'" - Jack Kornfield
Teaching Transcript: I’ll tell the root of one meditation that I love to do that might help people, because it helped me many times. It’s a meditation in which you envision or remember yourself in the middle of your difficulty at work, or family, or whatever. And then you let this surprise visit of some enlightened or awakened or loving being come and take your place. And it might be Gandhi or Buddha or the Mother Mary or Solomon or, you know, sometimes it’s Yoda or the Dalai Lama, or whoever it happens to be, your grandmother. And let them show you, they take over your body so no one knows they’re in there, and they show you how they would do it.
And I know that, for example, in the worst difficulties of these last years, I got divorced, which I had no expectation was going to happen. I thought I would be married for the rest of my life. I was married for 30 years, have a beautiful daughter. But at some point, after all these years, it became clear to my ex-wife that she really wanted her own life. That we had different desires, and she wanted her own space and to live her own life after our child was gone, had finished college and so forth. And that was tremendous grief and loss, and a kind of agony at times for all that I held onto. So I had to work with that as my practice. But then when we would go into the lawyers for negotiations there would be a lot of emotion, which is hard. Half the people in the country have been through it, so it’s not like it’s just Jack’s thing. Oh, a spiritual teacher, you shouldn’t get divorced. You know, things happen to us, this is the way life is. The waves come and you have to surf them.
But I would put Buddha on one arm for calm and clarity and steadiness. And I’d put the bodhisattva of compassion, Quan Yin, on my other arm to keep my heart open. I’d say, “Alright, we’re going to do this together.” And it made a complete difference. It wasn’t just me, but it was as if that imagination invited the wisest beings, or maybe simply the wisest part of consciousness itself to appear, and then it made it all easier. Because the thing is, you know, your heart really knows what’s wise. You know what’s beautiful, what’s compassionate. We forget it. We get lost, we get triggered, we get terrified, we get frightened, all those things (which are also part of being human). But deep down inside is the one who knows, and this is a way of inviting them. So I’m describing the practice, and then it’s much cooler when you do it as a meditation.
Day 3 Resources - Tuesday, November 3rd
"Making Friends with Worry" with Joseph Goldstein
"Isn’t this something I should be worried about?" Yes, this is something you should be concerned about, and you plan for it. But how many times do you have to plan for it? Once? Twice? Three times? The seventeenth time you’re thinking about missing the plane, it’s clearly not helpful. - Joseph Goldstein
Teaching Transcript: So with worry, this ties very much into what we were just talking about in terms of being mindful of thoughts. Because usually worry is prompted, the feeling of worry is prompted by different thoughts you were having. And mostly it’s thoughts about future, but maybe it’s involved with thoughts of past, or maybe present. So first I think it’s to recognize the particular thought patterns that are arising with respect, or which give rise to the feeling of worry.
Actually, somebody on a retreat some time ago… This was in a book, 10% Happier by Dan Harris. So he asks this question, and he tells this story in the book. He said, “Isn’t it helpful, you know, at the end of the retreat I’m going to be going through the airport, and what happens if I miss my plane? Isn’t this something should be worried about?” The book is quite delightful. He comes to the practice as a total skeptic, and his description of the retreat is very funny as well. But he raised a good point: aren’t there things in life that we should be worried about? And I think it’s because we have the sense that there’s a place for it, that we use that as a rationalization for being swamped by it. Well I should be worried about it; this is a worrisome situation.
But, as I’ve pointed out, when he asked that, I said, “Yes, this is something you should be concerned about, and you plan for it.” But how many times do you have to plan for it? Once? Twice? Three times? The seventeenth time you’re thinking about missing the plane, it’s clearly not helpful, it’s not serving anything. So one of the antidotes when we’re caught up in worried thoughts, and especially if they’re a pattern, if they’re very repetitious, and we’re not learning anything in terms of how we should adjust the situation, we’re just caught in that cycle, we could ask ourselves with these kind of thoughts, “Is this useful?” Just that simple question, “Is this thought useful?” And very often that’s enough to unhook us from the identification with the pattern that we see. Yes, it may have been useful the first time or second time, or tenth time, but it’s not endlessly useful.
And so it just takes us again, it gives us another perspective on the content, so that at that point we can more easily drop into the awareness of, this is just a thought. And tune into the empty nature of thought. That it really, as a phenomenon, is very unsubstantial because we see in that moment that the content is no longer serving us. So I think that kind of mindfulness of that particular pattern is very helpful in terms of freeing us from simply being lost in that conditioning. And some people live their whole lives in a state of worry.
Day 2 Resources - Monday, November 2nd
"Your Best Intentions" with Jack Kornfield
"When you notice yourself in conflict with another person, or upset with what’s happening, particularly in relation to other people or events around you, take a little pause and then ask yourself, 'What’s my best intention? What’s my highest intention?' That’s what meditation is about. It’s not to make you a better person. It’s to allow you to listen to the goodness and the kind of depth of compassion that is innate to you as a being." - Jack Kornfield
Teaching Transcript: I have a little story to read, and then I’ll think of a task. The story goes like this: It’s a Hasidic, Jewish mystical rabbi who taught his disciples to memorize, reflect, contemplate, and place the teachings of the holy words on their heart. One day, a student asked the rabbi why he always used the phrase “on your heart.” And the master replied, “Only God, or the mystery, can put the teachings in your heart. Here, we recite and learn and put them on the heart, hoping that some day, when your heart breaks, they will fall in.”
And so, when you ask about a practice, in a way, both there is something beautiful in a practice, but also it prepares us for the moments when the heart breaks and we lose something, or when the mystery throws us into some great difficulty, which will happen in everybody’s life. Then we have those resources, the holiness inside us that says, “Yes, we know how to do this.” And we do know, the Buddha nature that says I know how to bring compassion and wisdom and understanding to this very difficulty.
And so, the practice I would give is a simple one of intention, or you could call it best intention, or sacred intention. And that is, three times today or tomorrow, when you notice yourself in conflict with another person, or upset with what’s happening, particularly in relation to other people or events around you, take a little pause and then ask yourself, “What’s my best intention? What’s my highest intention?”
And when you do, just to take that breath of a pause, you step out of the conflict and you’re upset and you’re angry and you’re worried, and all the things that become activated in you, or you feel guilty or bad or blaming or whatever. And you take a pause. First, you start to sense that there comes the perfume of freedom: oh my god, I’m not completely lost in that, I’m not insane for a moment, I’ve got some space. And then you say, “What’s my best intention?” And often, when you think about going back to the people or the situation or that purpose, something comes into your hearts and says, “You know, I want us to understand each other, I want us to somehow work this out. I actually love these people, maybe.” The beauty of your own heart when you have a conversation with it, and you’re willing to take time to listen, starts to reveal itself.
And that’s what meditation is about. It’s not to make you a better person. It’s to allow you to listen to the goodness and the kind of depth of compassion that is innate to you as a being. You don’t really want to suffer. And, you know, when you were a child, you wanted to be free. There’s this sense of newness and freedom of spirit, and you want that for others. And I see it in children, even all these little experiments where children will help one another. Yes, they hit each other with blocks and things when they get frustrated because they don’t have the tools yet. Of course, nations do that too, unfortunately. But underneath, you have a tender and wise heart, and this was born into you, your spirit. So when you take a moment to quiet and say, “What’s my best intention?” Wait, you’ll be surprised at how often a beautiful answer will come.
Day 1 Resources - Sunday, November 1st
"Courage, Compassion and Resilience" with Thupten Jinpa
"You're so terrified that maybe somehow to not control and fix it, that terrible things are going to happen, that everything is going to fall apart. And you need courage to be able to just trust the process and also let go. Even to act out of compassion we need courage, because you are basically giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. And you are allowing and saying that you're going to respond to any given situation out of trust, out of trust in basic humanity. So for that, you do need courage." - Thupten Jinpa
Teaching Transcript: The thing is, often in our lives we get stuck and we get stumbled because we tend to allow our anxiety and fear to take over, and we fail to trust our own instinct, our own intuition.
So in these kinds of situations this ability to trust yourself, it really is the courage - and you need that because, and of course in order to have this you do need to have some basic cultivations, you need to have the right set of values and you need to have the right set of ideals that inspire you, and you need to have a sense of belonging to a community.
So once you have these as a kind of background then the actual living, when it comes to the actual living then we need courage. Because without courage we get really sidetracked and often we come up with, you know the mind is very very creative, and it will come up with all sorts of excuses. You know, "It's not the right time, maybe I'm not ready yet, maybe if this happens what am I gonna do?" So it's fear, it's anxiety, kind of procrastination, and also all of these really hinder us.
And here I think this open-hearted courage, which allows us to trust our instinct, and then just be, and also let go, because one of the key practices of any great spiritual tradition is the ability to let go - particularly the "let go" of your strong gripping self. The interesting thing about self-centeredness is that the impulse behind self-centeredness is fear. You're so terrified that maybe somehow to not control and fix it, that terrible things are going to happen, that everything is going to fall apart. And you need courage to be able to just trust the process and also let go. So in all of these, and even compassion, you know you need courage, because to act out of compassion you extend a hand to another person, there's no guarantee that the other person is going to accept the extended hand, you know? There's also no guarantee that the other person isn't going to react negatively. but you need courage to be able to extend that hand first to yourself.
And so I think even to act out of compassion we need courage, because you are basically giving the other person the benefit of the doubt. And you are allowing and saying that you're going to respond to any given situation out of trust, out of trust in basic humanity. So for that, you do need courage, but also compassion brings courage, because one of the thing that causes us so much fear is the excessive focus on self and it's concerns. And when you are caught by excessive self-concern everything that you do feels as if there's too much at stake, so we act as if, "If this doesn't work for me, terrible things are going to happen," and all of this kind of additional level of stress is really brought on by this excessive self focus, where we kind of invest much more than what is actually at stake.
Now when you are compassionate you're thinking more about other people. In that space, you have a much more resilient mind, you know? So in the development of mind-training, teachers often say that the people who are excessively self-focused are like those who are carrying a very large target to be shot at, walking around with it. So that you get easily hurt. Whereas when you are more courageous, when you are more compassionate, because there is less focus on self you are also more resilient, you have much more capacity to understand situations and endure it, so I think in all of this, courage really is the key.