In INSIGHTS by Erik Pema Kunsang11 Comments

There is such a need for bigger hearts, vast minds, for more tolerance, kindness and attitudes that includes everyone. We have enough racism and so many other ways to exclude each other. We all know how painful it is to be the one left out, to be the excluded or even the suppressed minority. Sometimes for absolutely no reason. It’s absurd to wait for someone else to solve this very human dilemma, for the wait could be endless. Individually we can take charge of solving this problem, and luckily we have a lot of resources at hand. We can grow a bigger heart.

Heart is attitude and will-power. It’s how we aim our spirit and focus. The interesting point is not to pump up the physical heart, but rather to wean ourselves from the habit of limiting it. It’s easy and it’s difficult, but there is no other choice. Selfishness hurts and it hurts bad. It hurts us, the people we love and it makes a lousy world. It’s a bad habit and a stupid addiction, because it gives a false sense of security, while making us the looser rather than the winner. It’s easy enough to be regretful after having exposed a selfish and narrow-minded attitude and then later say sorry. Honestly, it helps maybe for that exact situation, but there is no change in the habit.

We can catch ourselves right in the moment, when small heart hijacks our natural spirit. We can arrest the troublemaker during the crime. When aware we can see that this attitude is not only stupid, it’s also very destructive. It ruins the harmony and our happiness in daily life. Feelings like, I must win this argument, I must push my opinion through and so on, undermines friendships and relationships. One less friend, more loneliness inside and around. The world turns cold and colorless. What do we gain from that?

In the moment when there is an hardening around the heart chakra and self-importance is about to take over, make a pause, say no to that attitude, by recognizing, I have been down on this road before and it leads nowhere. Instead, step back for a few moments and allow your basic intelligence to rule. Each time the limiting habit falls away, your heart grows bigger and the willingness to include and cherish becomes possible. It’s that easy. A little step at a time, allow goodwill and charity to live and breathe. As the bad habit grow less and less, we notice that tolerance comes more often and easily, like the scales shifting on a weight. There is no other way; we have to work with it and we need to decide to take responsibility for this, because there is no one else to do it. We can, when we want too.

When I’m confronted with a narrow-minded attitude and hurtful word, that tenseness becomes so obvious, almost a physical pain and the jungle instinct says fight back. Then I take a pause and keep quiet for a little bit, allow a silent gentle sigh from deep within, here it goes again: shall I swallow the bait or solve it right here and now? In that pause, I often discover the resource at hand to not only be quiet but also gentle, and that discovery is worth more than pure gold. From the warmth and openness it’s so much easier to be kind and sharp, and to say the right thing that helps the situation, not only for me, but for the other person as well. When we begin to discover that we can turn things around, the painful moment turns into humor and warmth, and there is less and less limiting attitude. This is the environment in which the heart grows and life becomes more meaningful. We grow as we break down boundaries.

About the Author
Erik Pema Kunsang

Erik Pema Kunsang

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Translator of ancient Buddhist scriptures, author, bridge-builder to modern life, Buddhist teacher & meditation instructor. Board of director at 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. Founder of Rangjung Yeshe Publications and LEVEKUNST art of life. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author. Erik's website & retreats.

Photo by Carlo Sardena, Italy.

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    Thank you so much!

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    Thank you so much for your insights Erik – these words resonate deeply and give us clear practical steps to waking up to bad habits and creating new ways of being to achieve harmony with others.

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    Thank you so much dear Erik, read your beautiful post a few years ago, I think it was, and good to have it read again. I know that well, I have trained and continue to train in growing my heart bigger. However, wish I had learned it when I was younger, then I probably would not have been affected so mentally hard the other day when I was deeply hurt by a loved one. It hurts to be hurt by people you care about – that’s how it is. But that the emotions then come overturning and affect so extremely that it goes too much on oneself … is not good either. I continue my training. It’s so meaningful and heartwarming.

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    Thank you Erik!

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    I’m writing this during the COVID crisis and I’m noticing a lot of self importance and lack of concern for other sentient beings. The article definitely helps with this if one can remain mindful, but on a deeper level I’m noticing a lack of authentic care and concern for others that I’ve had in my life but in my old age I seem to have lost. I know that practices such as Tonglen and Maitri can help this. Such a difficult habit to transform.

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    This seems a perfect picture of this matter, very beautiful, thank you

  8. jigme zangmo

    sir, i so much fall in love with your writing, it carries an immense meaning, inspiration and wisdom. love to read more

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