Tolerance: Mastering Your Egos Impulses
It is reported that Ajahn Chah said: “Buddhism is a religion of the heart. Only this. One who practices to develop the heart is one who practices Buddhism.” This statement has merit in today’s highly competitive society. The 14th Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh have made similar statements. “The haves” and “the have nots” have always competed throughout history. However, today with stronger economic competition, less personal security (work, money, friendship, intimacy, entitlement, terrorism, being “good enough,” etc.), our limbic system tends to dominate social interaction. One way to master the negative and unpleasant outcomes of these current conditions is to learn and use mindfulness (ways of thinking, ways of being, meditation, yoga, etc.) to calm the inner tension to protect ego and self from the forces that be. A key “wise mind” skill here is to become aware of your own level of inner and outer criticism, and to mindfully bring it under voluntary control. The teachings of Dzogchen Ponlop may help.
Dzogchen Ponlop notes that our emotional response to current social and psychological pressures is to protect our inner true self from emotional harm. The tendency to be critical of one’s self and of others is a common example of this defensive response. Active mind criticism challenges our ability to attain and maintain emotional regulation, and to be compassionate as human beings. Here are the practices that are recommended. It is clear that regular practice of mindfulness, meditation, yoga, walking meditation, and/or exercise is highly recommended as a foundational reality.
- Improved self-understanding of your own emotional experiences – We need to practice allowing situations (causes and conditions) that make us feel less safe emotionally. Gently letting go of internal, often private fears is one way to begin this process. Of course, there is no expectation to increase the actual risk of personal harm in this process.
- Another practice refers to clear seeing – Knowing the difference between common reality and ultimate reality, the BIG picture of your life and what really matters in the long term. Pay attention to your emotional habits in thoughts, ego, behaviors, and relationships. Notice what triggers your ego to become defensive and/or reactive. Become aware of how you speak and listen. Are you present? Is your heart open? Do you already have cognitive answers in mind before the social interaction is over? This content does not mean that all direct, developmental feedback is not needed at times.
- Refine your ability to utilize the mindfulness gap – Learn to be in that space and time between stimuli that trigger your emotions and your actual response or reaction to such stimuli. Shift your perception from BEING your emotions to observing you are having emotional responses and reactions. Notice the flow of your experience; become aware of yourself “going off” into criticism and hostility – then apply the brakes and be more mindful off your immediate experience. The practice of meditation, especially, is known to produce a mind-body pause that enables more constructive responding to emotional challenges.
- Practice letting go of the impulsive, reactive, fearful, critical self – Use mindful awareness to become more aware of the tension rising in your mind-body. Learn to relax at this very moment. Observe with mindful awareness. The less limbic dominance the better; there is no need to be dominant or ego-first in typical responses to life situations. Hold onto only those things you cherish deeply.
For more information on improving emotion regulation over ego reactivity and criticism refer to Ponlop, D. (2016). Emotional Rescue: How to Work With Your Emotions... New York: Tarcher/Perigree/Penguin Random House.
By Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
Author of Mindful Happiness
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