man thinking


By Ty Phillips


It is our addictions to negative emotions that creates the majority of our suffering.

I have noticed, more and more lately, that when I find myself drawn up within the little world of my own suffering, people come to me seeking guidance for the very same problem that I find myself fixating on.

I sit back and laugh at how trite I have become over a situation, which although very real to me, is quite small in the larger reality.

As I engage these conversations, I find that I am speaking just as much to myself as I am to my friends and students.

A large portion of my suffering is simply an ego centric view of reality as I want to see it.

It’s all about me.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t very real problems that I and everyone else face on a day to day. The reality is that it is my perception of them that heightens or lessons my suffering in them.

This relationship isn’t going quite how I want it to; money is tighter than I think it should be, my children are giving me a headache. The list is endless and within it, I notice that there are a lot of repetitions of the words, I and Me.

This is the problem.

Instead of being open to my situation on a compassionate level, I am instead looking through the lens of my desire for control. Perception trumps everything.

These gentle reminders that the universe—or karma—or just simple chance (whatever it may be) are strong enough to pull me from my self loathing revelry; they are reminders that in order to connect, I must be willing to see the faults within myself. Anything short of this and my relationship with others will be false.

There is a saying that goes something like this, “If your compassion does not also reach yourself, it isn’t real.”

I sit with this statement and chew on its truth. How can I offer an open hand if I am unwilling to take that deep, honest and critical look at myself?  Being critical of myself doesn’t mean that I am not being compassionate. It means that I am being honest enough to face the truth and that I am willing to look at it without judgments and attachments.

In all of this, I think these lessons of perception have taught me that honesty is not only the best policy but also the best teacher.

We often place certain people on a pedestal.

They cannot slip, they cannot fall, they cannot crack the veneer of perfection we have forced upon them. When they do, we as humans have a tendency to crack with them.

I think instead, if we can be exposed—open in our faultiness and honest in our pursuit—then we are open to learning, to teaching, to being stable within the bonds of compassion.

When you reach back to those who are reaching to you, it isn’t with a porcelain hand; it is with one that is calloused and comfortable. It offers a sense of home and relatableness.

It is judgment free in that it openly says, “I’ve been there with you, and I am still here for you.”


Photo: Massju/Flickr

Editor: Dana Gornall