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Buddhadharma : Spring 2006
buddhadharma| 21 |spirng 2006 Q aSk the teacherS senD your Questions By maiL or to teaChers@theBuDDhaDharma.Com Question: Someone very close to me is going through a great deal of psychological difficulty and can’t find their way in life. I feel strongly that they would benefit from being able to take their thoughts less seriously, something I feel I’ve been learning from meditation. Yet, they are clearly not ready to take up Buddhism or even medita- tion, although in the long run I think they might. I would like to help them out now and to help them find their way to the path. How can I do that without seeming to preach Buddhism or try- ing to make them take up an activity they don’t feel ready for? Zenkei BLanChe hartman: It is very difficult when someone close to us is experiencing emotional dif- ficulties, and quite natural to want to offer them what has been helpful to us. However, the most helpful thing may be to give your friend the gift of listening. If you can offer your friend your full attention, expressing your care and concern free of judgment, it may give them an opportunity to explore with you what they are experiencing. A friend once said to me in exasperation, “Blanche, I don’t want you to fix it, I just want you to listen to me!” Although I often remember her admoni- tion, and the passion with which she said it, I still fall into that old habit. If your friend can see your growing capacity for kindness and compassion as a result of your practice, they may become curious enough to explore what it is you are doing. The most impor- tant thing is for you to be able to see their whole- ness, as well as their pain. If your care is tainted with judgment, it will be hard for them to hear your genuine concern. It is said that the near ene- my of compassion is pity. I certainly agree that we all benefit when we take our thoughts less seriously and recognize them as just thoughts, rather than reality itself. In the Soto Zen tradition, Dogen Zenji’s instruc- tions say, “Think of not-thinking. How do you think of not-thinking? Nonthinking. This in itself is the essential art of zazen.” Although I have found that Zen practice is not something someone can do because someone else thinks it is a good idea, you might mention how much help your practice has been to you. If your friend shows any interest, you could invite them to join you on a visit to an introductory medita- tion class if there is a dharma center or temple or group in your area that offers instruction. Or, if there is a dharma discourse offered by a teacher you respect, you might invite your friend to go with you to hear it. Let your offer be in the inter- est of sharing something you value with some- one you care about, rather than something you think will fix what’s wrong with him or her. The Zenkei BLanChe hartman is Former aBBess oF the san FranCisCo Zen Center. geshe tenZin wangyaL rinPoChe is a Lineage hoLDer oF the Bön DZogChen traDition oF tiBet. narayan LieBenson graDy is a guiDing teaCher at the CamBriDge insight meDitation Center. PHOTOSBY(L-R):BaRBaRaWENgER,MaRYELLENMCCOuRT,MaRYLaNg