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Daily Connect: Now Hear This !

"I just did something really stupid."  "If I weren't always impatient, I'd be a better person."  "It was my fault, I screwed it up again."  "I should pay attention and not make so many mistakes."  "That was a dumb thing to do."  "Because I'm an idiot, that's why."  "Because I never get it together on time."  "Because I'm really lazy." 

Some of the things we say to and about ourselves are shocking.  We're unashamed to make wild accusations and judgments, loudly criticize, and even insult ourselves.   We seem to feel as if it's okay to speak this way, and even as if it's necessary; we believe don't deserve to be spoken to gently and kindly, with the politeness and respect we offer to others. I know many people who have harsh words for themselves but would never speak that way to others;  they're thoughtful and considerate and would be embarrassed to hurt someone's feelings. Many are also compassionate and understanding, and extend to others a courtesy and patience they rarely offer to themselves. 

Buddhists are taught to pay particular attention to their body, speech, and mind.  Body means the actions we take;  speech means the words we say and write; and mind means the thoughts and feelings of our psychological state.  Sometimes we forget that speech includes the words we say to ourselves as well as others.  Meditation (or "deep listening", as Thich Nhat Hanh says) can provide a way to really observe what we're doing, saying, and thinking, and will allow us to begin to notice our habitual ways of being.  Using meditation is a good way to start hearing what you say about you.  Listening to what you're saying might allow you to be receptive to kinder word choices;  "Sometimes I make a mistake and it's okay" is much more productive than "I screwed up again."   It might feel strange to offer generosity and love to yourself if you're not used to it, so remember what the Buddha said: 

You can search throughout the entire universe for someone who is more deserving of your love and affection than yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere.

Through this prayer of Ever-present Good
May everyone come to full and complete awakening
In the palace of the realm of totality


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sharon salzberg

tells a great story about this. she'd been meditating for a while, wondering if it did any good, and she dropped a cup, breaking it. her mind issued the habitual thought -- "you're such a klutz" -- which was immediately followed by "and I love you anyway."

great piece, kim!
nancy (not signed in)

Taking It To The Extreme

I see the truth of this in the prison work I have become involved in. Prisons are full of negative talk and negative thinking: "I'm no good" "I'm a criminal," "I don't deserve happiness/contentment/relief from suffering after what I did," and so on are the regular fare in these places. Not that people who commit crimes don't deserve to be locked up, but that's really beside the point. According to the Four Noble Truths, the purpose of Mahayana Buddhist practice is to end suffering for all sentient beings, not just the ones who "deserve" to do so. And in order to have any chance to end our suffering (to say nothing of the potential for actual rehabilitation), a person must break these ubiquitous thought patterns.

Of course, most of us (like most prisoners) are completely unaware that we even do this. Mindfulness is an excellent tool to bring these unconscious patterns into our awareness, the first step in breaking out of them.

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