During the first several posts under this series, we looked at how to meditate on self-confidence by constructing a reliable basis for confidence. In this post we will explore how to actually practice self-confidence by looking at (1) What it means to wholeheartedly accept others just the way they are, (2) how we can wholeheartedly accept others just the way they are, and (3) some special considerations on practicing within our capacity.
What it means to wholeheartedly accept others just the way they are
To accept wholeheartedly means to welcome. Right now we have a problem with everything. There are certain people or situations which we would rather avoid and we push them away or resist them. We live in samsara. We resist these things because we think they cause us suffering. If we can instead learn to use all of these situations, then we wouldn’t need to resist them but we could accept them wholeheartedly. As our ability to use difficult people to accomplish our spiritual goals increases, so too does our confidence because difficult situations no longer pose a problem for us. We will fear nothing.
So what does it mean in practice to wholeheardly accept others just the way they are? It means to abandon attachment to others changing. We have attachment to others changing when we feel that our happiness depends on others changing. In reality, if you think that others are anything other than perfect just the way they are, you are wrong. This is worth repeating like a mantra. Normally we try change others, even sometimes motivated by concern for their interests, but we cannot change others – only they can change themselves. We can help them change in the way they want to, but we shouldn’t try change them the way we want them to. When we accept someone as they are, we create the space for them to change. When we don’t accept others, they become defensive and self-justifying and this blocks all change.
It means to respect 100% their freedom to choose their own actions. Normally we ask ourselves how much freedom we should give others, but the reality is they already have all the freedom. Our job is to respect that and give them the information they need to use their freedom wisely. It means we push nothing away and resist nothing. We accept the situation as it is without resistance, and then deal with it. It does no good to live in denial of how things are We do not resist the situation or others because we don’t need to. We can use everything. This doesn’t mean we don’t do what needs to be done, but we just accept reality as it is. Like a cancer patient who accepts their cancer and then deals with it. It means we create around ourselves a zone of total acceptance without any judgement. We don’t judge others, but accept them as perfect just the way they are.
How can we wholeheartedly accept others just the way they are?
There are several different things we can do that will enable us to do this: First, we need to learn to accept ourself without judgement. A very senior teacher explained to me once that the way we treat ourselves determines how we treat others. If we are hard on ourselves, we will be hard on others. If we accept ourselves, we will accept others. A strong influence of how we treat ourselves is how our parents treated us. Usually people motivate and chastise themselves as their parents did to them. So we need to check this. To accept ourselves is to accept that we will have delusions. Just as a body farts, an ordinary mind has delusions. We accept this as it is, without judgement. It is just the nature of things. We don’t expect it to be any different. When we accept ourselves without judgement, then we create the space for ourselves to change. I am sick, time to get better.
We can consider everyone to be an emanation of your spiritual guide who has come to teach you different spiritual lessons. We can accept others because they are so useful for our practice. So it depends upon our ability to transform whatever others do into an opportunity for us to practice. We can view ourselves as being on solitary retreat right now, inside our heart, and everything is emanated by your spiritual guide. We can view these as opportunities to purify. Problems are the ripening of our negative karma. If we happily accept them as purification it purifies our negative karma. We can view it as a lesson in karma – we need to avoid negative actions and engage in virtuous. We can view it as a lesson in renunciation – samsara is the nature of suffering, so let go of any expectation that it be any different. Use the fact that by nature broken to make the decision to ‘get out of this dump.’ We can use it as a lesson in cherishing others – all problems come from cherishing ourself, all happiness comes from cherishing others. Lesson in compassion, bodhichitta and emptiness.
We need to learn to accept and indeed cherish others faults. We need to accept that they are deluded. We usually have anger wishing that they were different. We don’t want to deal with their delusions. The belief that they are anything other than perfect is a delusion. We will talk more next post about how to respond to others being deluded. The greatest quality others have is their faults because these are the most useful thing for us as Dharma practitioners. If we see their faults of others as qualities, they are no longer faults! We can practice pure view with respect to their faults. Pure view does not say what the other person is doing is perfect, rather is asks ourselves the question, “how can I receive perfect benefit from what this person is in fact doing?” When we receive perfect benefit, then we can honestly think perhaps this person is a Buddha with just very skilful means.
We should rejoice in whatever others do do, and ignore the rest. Rejoicing in others should be our main practice. The world you pay attention to is the world you experience. If you pay attention to others’ faults, you will live in a faulty world; if you pay attention to others’ good qualities, you will live in a pure world. Whatever you relate to, you draw out. If you relate to people’s faults, you will draw them out; and if you relate to their good qualities, you will draw them out. So this is a real act of compassion. Rejoicing creates the cause to acquire whatever good quality you are rejoicing in. Criticizing creates the causes to acquire the faults that you criticize. Rejoicing is the root of the Mahayana path. Enlightenment depends upon bodhichitta, which depends upon compassion, which depends upon cherishing others, which depends upon finding others precious, which depends upon our finding them attractive/useful.
How does this mind of acceptance enable us to be in a pure land right now? A pure land is a place where there is no manifest suffering and everything leads us to enlightenment. Through the mind of acceptance, we can use everything, so nothing is a problem for us – just an opportunity to grow. In this way there is no manifest suffering. Everything functions to push us out of samsara. Everything confirms the Dharma and propels us further on our path, so all energy put into the system gets channeled into pushing us out. So it is just like a pure land. We can then be like the Buddhas who are able to remain in samsara and joyfully use everything to help beings get out.
Capacity considerations for engaging in this practice
Here are some considerations for being able to practice this: First, we should know when we should practice it. We practice it on unavoidable suffering. If we can deal with some situation through normal means, we do so; but for the unavoidable stuff, we practice patient acceptance. Geshe-la gives the example of a headache: take an asprin and practice acceptance until it kicks in. Second, we need to be aware of our capacity of what we can transform and what we cant. The test is not whether a situation is difficult, but rather whether remaining in it destroys our capacity to practice. Third, we need to find a middle way between being a doormat and being a jerk. This is done by learning how to establish clear, fair limits. We don’t set limits for others, we set limits for ourself. “I am incapable of being in a relationship where you are going off with somebody else, etc.” We then respect completely the freedom of the other person to decide. Our limits should not be aimed at having the other person change, but on our own ability to change and what is best for our practice. Fourth, we need to accept our mistakes. We will make many mistakes, but we need to accept them (in other words, use them). It’s normal that we will make mistakes, so we accept this without guilt. We then learn from our mistakes and try do better next time.