فصل 5

دوره: خرد تسلط بر خشم / درس 6

فصل 5

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Chapter 5

COMPASSIONATE COMMUNICATION

There may have been a time when you could not communicate with your parents. Although you lived in the same house, you might have felt that your father or mother was very distant. In this situation, both parent and child suffer.

Each side believes that there is only misunderstanding, hatred, and separation. The parent and child do not know that they have many things in common. They do not know that they both have the capacity to understand, to forgive, and to love each other. Therefore, it is very important to recognize the positive elements that are always there in us to prevent anger and other negative elements from dominating us.

The Sunshine Behind the Clouds

When it is raining, we think that there is no sunshine. But if we fly high in an airplane and go through the clouds, we rediscover the sunshine again. We see that the sunshine is always there. In a time of anger or despair, our love is still there also.

Our capacity to communicate, to forgive, to be compassionate is still there. You have to believe this. We are more than our anger, we are more than our suffering. We must recognize that we do have within us the capacity to love, to understand, to be compassionate. If you know this, then when it rains you won’t be desperate. You know that the rain is there, but the sunshine is still there somewhere. Soon the rain will stop, and the sun will shine again. Have hope. If you can remind yourself that the positive elements are still present within you and the other person, you will know that it is possible to break through, so that the best things in both of you can come up and manifest again.

The practice is there for that. The practice will help you touch the sunshine, touch the Buddha, the goodness within you so that you can transform the situation. You can call this goodness anything you want to, whatever is familiar to you from your own spiritual tradition.

Deep down you must know that you are capable of being peace. Develop the conviction that the energy of the Buddha is in you. The only thing you need to do is to call on it for help. You can do this by practicing mindful breathing, mindful walking, and mindful sitting.

Training Ourselves to Listen Deeply Communicating is a practice. You have to be skillful in order to communicate. Good will is not enough. You have to learn how to do it. Maybe you have lost your capacity to listen.

Maybe the other person has spoken so often with bitterness, always condemning and blaming, that you have had enough.

You cannot listen anymore. You begin to try to avoid him or her. You don’t have the capacity to listen to that person anymore.

You try to avoid him out of fear. You don’t want to suffer. But this can also create a misunderstanding, and make him feel that you despise him. This can cause him a lot of suffering.

You give him the impression that you want to boycott him, to ignore his presence. You cannot face him and at the same time you cannot avoid him. The only solution is to train yourself to be able to communicate again. Deep listening is the way.

We know that many people suffer, feeling that no one is able to understand them or their situation. Everyone is too busy and no one seems to have the capacity to listen. But all of us need someone who can listen to us.

Today there are people who practice psychotherapy and they are supposed to be there for you, to sit and listen to you so that you can open your heart. They have to listen deeply in order to be real therapists. Real therapists have the capacity to listen with all their being, without prejudices, without judgment.

I don’t know how therapists train themselves to acquire this kind of capacity to listen. A therapist also may be full of suffering. While sitting and listening to the client, the seeds of suffering in him or her may be watered. If the therapist is overwhelmed by his own suffering, how can he listen properly to the other person? When you are trained to be a therapist, you have to learn the art of deep listening.

Listening with empathy means you listen in such a way that the other person feels you are really listening, really understanding, hearing with your whole being—with your heart. But how many of us can listen like that? We agree in principle that we should listen with our heart, so that we can really hear what the other is saying. We agree that we should give the speaker the feeling that he is being listened to and being understood. Only that can give him a feeling of relief. But, in fact, how many of us can listen like that?

Listening to Give Relief

Deep listening, compassionate listening is not listening with the purpose of analyzing or even uncovering what has happened in the past. You listen first of all in order to give the other person relief, a chance to speak out, to feel that someone finally understands him or her. Deep listening is the kind of listening that helps us to keep compassion alive while the other speaks, which may be for half an hour or forty-five minutes. During this time you have in mind only one idea, one desire: to listen in order to give the other person the chance to speak out and suffer less. This is your only purpose. Other things like analyzing, understanding the past, can be a byproduct of this work. But first of all listen with compassion.

Compassion Is the Antidote for Anger and Bitterness

If you keep compassion alive in you while listening, then anger and irritation cannot arise. Otherwise the things he says, the things she says will touch off your irritation, anger, and suffering. Compassion alone can protect you from becoming irritated, angry, or full of despair.

So you want to act as a Great Being while listening because you know that the other person suffers so much and needs you to step in and rescue him. But you have to be equipped with something to do the job.

When firemen come to help put out a fire, they have to have the right equipment. They must have ladders, water, and the kind of clothing that can protect them from fire. They have to know many ways to protect themselves and to put the fire out. When you listen deeply to someone who suffers, you step into a zone of fire. There is a fire of suffering, of anger burning in the person you are listening to. If you are not well equipped, you cannot help and you might become a victim of the fire in the other person. This is why you need equipment.

Your equipment here is compassion, which can be nourished and kept alive with the practice of mindful breathing.

Mindful breathing generates the energy of mindfulness. Mindful breathing keeps your basic desire alive, the desire to help the other person speak out. When the other person speaks, his words might be full of bitterness, condemnation, and judgment. These words might touch off suffering in you. But if compassion is kept alive in you, through the practice of mindful breathing, you are protected. You are capable of sitting there and listening for one hour without suffering. Your compassion will nourish you, knowing that you are helping the other person to suffer less. Play the role of a Bodhisattva.

You will be the best kind of therapist.

Compassion is born from happiness and also from understanding.

When compassion and understanding are kept alive, you are safe. What the other person says will not make you suffer and you can listen deeply. You really listen. When you do not have the capacity to listen with compassion, you cannot just pretend you are listening. The other person will realize that you are full of ideas about suffering, but don’t really understand him or her. When you have understanding, you can listen with compassion, you can listen deeply, and the quality of this listening is the fruit of your practice.

Nourishing Ourselves

Touching suffering can help us nourish our compassion and be able to recognize happiness when it is there. If we are not in contact with pain, we cannot know what real happiness is.

So touching suffering is our practice. But each one of us has limits. We cannot do more than we can do.

This is why we have to take good care of ourselves. If you listen too much to the suffering, the anger of other people, you will be affected. You will be in touch only with suffering, and you won’t have the opportunity to be in touch with other, positive elements. This will destroy your balance. Therefore, in your daily life, you have to practice so that you can be in touch with elements that do not constantly express suffering: the sky, the birds, the trees, the flowers, children—whatever is refreshing, healing, and nourishing in us and around us. Sometimes you get lost in your suffering, in your worries.

Let your friends rescue you. They may say, “Look how beautiful the sky is this morning. It is foggy, but it’s really beautiful. Paradise is right here. Why don’t you come back to the present and witness this beauty? ”You are with the community, with brothers and sisters who are capable of being happy. So the community rescues you and helps you to be in touch again with the positive elements of life. This is the practice of nourishment. It’s very important.

We should be able to live each day deeply, with joy, peace, and compassion because time goes by so quickly. Each morning I offer a stick of incense to the Buddha. I promise myself that I will enjoy every minute of the day that is given me to live. It is thanks to the practice of mindful walking and mindful breathing that I can enjoy deeply every moment of my daily life. Mindful breathing and mindful walking are like two friends, always helping me to delve into the here and the now and touch the wonders of life that are available.

We need to receive the nourishment we deserve. Listening to the sound of the bell is a very nourishing and pleasant practice. In Plum Village, whenever the phone rings, the clock chimes, or the monastery bell is invited, we have a chance to stop whatever we are doing, to stop our talking and our thinking. These are bells of mindfulness. When we hear the sound of the bell, we relax our body and return to our breathing.

We realize that we are alive and can get in touch with many wonders of life that are present for us. We stop naturally, with enjoyment, not with solemnity or stiffness. Breathing in and out three times, we enjoy the fact that we are alive.

When we stop, we restore our calm and peace, we become free. Our work becomes more enjoyable, and the people around us become more real.

The practice of stopping and breathing with the bell is an example of the kind of practice that helps you get in touch with the beautiful and nourishing elements in daily life. You can do it alone, but with the sangha you can do it much more easily. The community is always there. When you get lost in your suffering, it can rescue you and put you in touch with the positive elements of life.

To know our limits is our practice. Even if you are a spiritual teacher and you have the capacity of listening to people’s suffering, you have to know your limits. You have to enjoy walking meditation. You have to enjoy your tea. You have to enjoy the company of happy people so that you get sufficient nourishment. To listen to the other person, you have to take care of yourself. On the one hand, you need to get the right nourishment every day. On the other hand, you need to practice nourishing compassion in yourself so that you can be well equipped for the task of listening. You have to play the role of a Great Being, someone who has so much happiness that she is able to rescue people from their suffering.

You Are Your Children

As a father or mother, you have to listen to your son or your daughter. This is very important because your son is yourself; your daughter is yourself. Your child is your continuation.

The most important task for you is to restore communication between you and your child. If your heart does not function well, if your stomach is not in good health, you don’t think of cutting it out and throwing it away. You cannot say, “You are not my heart! My heart does not behave like that. You are not my stomach! My stomach does not behave like that. I will have nothing to do with you anymore!”This is not intelligent.

You might talk to your son or your daughter like that, and this is not intelligent, either.

The moment your son or daughter is conceived in your womb, you see yourself and the fetus as one. You may even begin to have a conversation with the baby, “Keep still my beloved one. I know you are there. ”You speak to him or to her with love. You become aware of what you consume, because whatever you eat and drink, the baby also eats and drinks.

Your worries and your joy are the worries and joy of your baby. You and the baby are one.

When you give birth to the baby and the umbilical cord is cut, this awareness of your unity may begin to fade away.

By the time your son or your daughter turns twelve or thirteen, you have completely forgotten that she or he is you. You think of him or her as a separate entity. You have problems with each other. Having a problem with your child is like having trouble with your stomach, your heart, your kidneys.

If you believe that he is another person, a separate entity, you can say, “Go away! You are not my son! You are not my daughter! My son doesn’t behave like that. My daughter doesn’t behave like that.” But because you cannot say this to your stomach or to your heart, you cannot say it to your son or your daughter. The Buddha said, “There is no separate self.” You and your son, you and your daughter are just a continuation of many generations of ancestors. You are part of a long stream of life. Whatever your children do continues to affect you deeply—just like when they were in your womb.

Whatever you do still affects your children deeply because they can never be cut off from you. Your happiness and suffering are your child’s happiness and suffering and vice versa.

That is why you have to invest one hundred percent of yourself in the task of restoring communication.

Starting a Dialogue

Confusion and ignorance make us think that we are the only ones who suffer. We believe that our son or our daughter does not suffer. But in fact, whenever you suffer, your child also suffers. You are there in every cell of your son’s body, in every cell of your daughter’s body. Every emotion and every perception in your child, is your emotion and perception.

Therefore we have to remember the insight that we had in the beginning that he and you, that she and you, are one. Start a dialogue with your son or your daughter.

In the past you have made mistakes. You have caused your stomach to suffer. The way you have eaten and drunk, the way you have worried has had a big impact on your stomach, your intestines, your heart. You are responsible for your heart, your intestines, and your stomach. In very much the same way, you are responsible for your son and your daughter. You cannot say that you are not responsible. It would be much wiser to come to your child and say, “My dear child, I know you suffer a lot. For many years, you have suffered a lot.

When you suffer, I suffer, too. How can I be happy when my child suffers? So I recognize that both you and I suffer. Can we do something about it? Can we come together and search for a solution? Can we talk? I really want to restore communication, but alone, I cannot do much. I need your help.”

If, as a father or mother, you are capable of saying things like this to your child, the situation may change because you know how to use loving speech. Your language comes from love, from understanding, and from enlightenment. Enlightenment of the fact that you and your child are one, and that happiness and well-being are not an individual matter. These concern both of you. So what you say to your child has to come from your love and understanding, the understanding that there is no separate self. You can speak like this because you understand the true nature of both yourself and your child. You know that your daughter is the way she is because you are the way you are. You are interdependent. You are the way you are because your son is the way he is. You are not separate.

Train yourself in the art of mindful living. Train yourself so that you can become skillful enough to restore communication.

“My dear son, I know that you are me. You are my continuation, and when you suffer there is no way that I can be happy, so let us come together and sort things out. Please help me.”The son also can learn to speak this way because he understands that if his father suffers, he cannot be happy either. Through the practice of mindfulness, the son can touch the reality of no separate self and can learn to restore communication with his father. He may be the one who takes the initiative.

The same thing can happen between partners. You have vowed to live as one. With deep sincerity you have vowed to share your happiness and suffering. Telling your partner that you need his or her help to begin anew is only a continuation of those vows. Every one of us has the capacity for talking and listening like this.

Love Letters

There is a French woman who kept old love letters from her husband. He wrote her beautiful letters before they married.

Every time she got a letter from him, she savored every sentence—every word—it was so sweet, so understanding, so full of love. She was delighted whenever she got a letter, so she kept all his letters in a biscuit box. One morning, while she was rearranging her closet, she discovered the ancient biscuit box where she stored all his letters. It had been a long time since she had seen it. The box of letters told of the most wonderful time, when she and her husband were young, when they loved each other and believed that without each other they could not survive.

But in the past several years, both husband and wife had suffered a lot. They didn’t enjoy looking at each other anymore.

They didn’t enjoy talking to each other anymore. They didn’t write letters to each other anymore. The day before she found the box, her husband informed her that he had to go on a business trip. He did not find it pleasant to stay home, and perhaps he was looking for a little bit of happiness or pleasure on his trips. She was aware of that. When her husband told her that he had to go to New York for a meeting, she said, “If you have work to do, please go ahead.” She had grown used to this, it was very ordinary. Then, instead of returning home as planned, he telephoned and said, “I have to stay two more days, because there are things I still need to do.” She accepted this very easily, because even when he was at home, she was not happy.

After hanging up, she began to rearrange her closet and she discovered the box. It was a box of “Lu” biscuits—a very famous brand in France. She was curious because it had been a long time since she opened that box. She put down her duster, opened the box, and smelled something very familiar.

She took out one of the letters and she stood there and read it. How sweet was the letter! His language was full of understanding and love. She felt very refreshed, like a piece of dry land finally exposed to the rain. She opened another letter to read because it was so wonderful. Finally she brought the whole box of letters to the table, sat down, and read one after another until she finished all forty-six or forty-seven of them.

The seeds of her past happiness were still there. They had been buried under many layers of suffering—but they were still there. So while reading that letter he wrote when he was young, and full of love, she felt the seeds of happiness in her begin to be watered.

When you do something like this, you water the seeds of happiness that lie deep within your consciousness. In the recent past, her husband had not been using that kind of language at all. But now, when reading the letters, she could hear her husband speaking in that sweet way. Happiness had been a reality for them. Why did they now live in a kind of hell?

She could hardly remember that he used to talk to her like that, but it had been a reality. He was able to talk to her in that kind of language.

Watering the Seeds of Happiness

During the hour and a half she spent reading all these letters, she watered the seeds of happiness in herself. She realized that both of them had been unskillful. They had watered the seeds of suffering in each other, and they had not been able to water the seeds of happiness. After reading all the letters, she was motivated by the desire to sit down and write him a letter to tell him how happy she was at that time, in the beginning of their relationship. She wrote that she wished the happiness of those golden years could be rediscovered and recreated.

And now she could again call him, “My beloved one,” with all honesty and sincerity.

She spent forty-five minutes writing that letter. It was a real love letter—addressed to the charming young man who had written the letters she kept in a box. Reading his letters and then writing a letter took about three hours. It was a time of practice, but she did not know she was practicing.

After having written the letter, she felt very light inside. The letter had not yet been delivered; her husband had not yet read it; but she felt much better because the seeds of happiness had been reawakened, they had been watered. She went upstairs and put the letter on his desk. And for the rest of the day, she was happy. She was happy just because the letters had watered the positive seeds in her.

While reading the letters and writing to her husband, she gained some insight. Neither of them had been skillful. Neither of them knew how to preserve the happiness they deserved.

In their speech, in their actions, they created hell for each other. Both accepted living as a family, as a couple, but they no longer had any happiness. After having understood this, she was confident that if both of them tried to practice, happiness could be restored. She became full of hope and no longer suffered as she had in the past years.

When her husband came home, he went upstairs, and he saw the letter on his desk. In the letter, she wrote: “I’m partly responsible for our suffering, for the fact that we don’t have the happiness that both of us deserve. Let us begin anew and restore communication. Let us make peace, harmony, and happiness a reality again.” He spent a lot of time reading the letter and looking deeply into what she had written. He did not know that he was practicing meditation. But he was practicing also, because by reading his wife’s letter, the seeds of happiness in him were also watered. He stayed upstairs for a long time, looking deeply and getting the same insight that she had gotten the day before. Because of that, both of them had a chance to begin anew and to restore their happiness.

Nowadays, people, lovers, don’t write letters to each other anymore. They just pick up the phone and say, “Are you free tonight? Shall we go out?”That’s all, and you have nothing to keep. That is a pity. We must learn to write love letters again.

Write to your beloved one, he may be your father or your son.

She may be your daughter, your mother, your sister, or your friend. Take time to write down your gratitude and love.

Small Miracles

There are many ways you can restore communication. If you find it too difficult to talk to your son, why don’t you practice mindful walking and mindful breathing for one or two days? Then sit down and write him a love letter. You can use the same kind of language: “My dear son, I know that you have suffered terribly, and as your father, I am partly responsible because I didn’t know how to transmit the best of myself to you. I know you have not been able to communicate your suffering to me, and I want this to change. I want to be there for you. Let us help each other and try to improve our communication.” You have to learn to speak this kind of language.

Loving speech will rescue us. Compassionate listening will rescue us. This is a miracle performed by us, as practitioners.

You have the capacity to do it. You have enough peace, enough compassion and understanding in the depth of your consciousness. You have to call on it for help, call on the Buddha within. With a loving friend supporting you, it will be possible for you to begin anew and restore communication.

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