Thoughts on Mindful Transformation

Instead of acting as if we can dispose of parts of ourselves, we should learn the art of transformation. We can transform our anger, for example, into something more wholesome, like understanding.  We do not need surgery to remove our anger. If we become angry at our anger, we will have two angers at the same time. We only have to observe it with love and attention. If we take care of our anger in this way, without trying to run away from it, it will transform itself...we can deal with any unpleasant feeling in the same way.

This is a process similar to psychotherapy. Together with the patient a therapist looks at the nature of the pain. Often the therapist can uncover causes of suffering that stem from the way the patient looks at things, the beliefs he holds about himself, his culture, and the world. The therapist examines these viewpoints and beliefs with the patient and together they help free him from the kind of prison he has been in...

The therapist does not treat the patient by simply giving him another set of beliefs. She tries to help him see which kinds of ideas and beliefs have led to his suffering. Many patients want to get rid of their painful feelings, but they do not want to get rid of their beliefs, the viewpoints that are the very roots of their feelings. So therapist and patient have to work together to help the patient see things as they are. The same is true  when we use mindfulness to transform our feelings. After recognizing the feeling, becoming one with it, calming it down, and releasing it, we can look deeply into its causes, which are often based on inaccurate perceptions. As soon as we understand the causes and nature of our feelings, they begin to transform themselves.

~Thich Nhat Hanh in Peace is Every Step 

The more we relate to others, the more quickly we discover where we are blocked, where we are unkind, afraid, shut down. Seeing this is helpful, but it is also painful. Often the only way we know how to react is to use it as ammunition against ourselves. We aren't kind. We aren't honest. We aren't brave, and we might as well give up right now. But when we apply the instruction to be soft and nonjudgemental to whatever we see right at that very moment, then this embarrassing reflection in the mirror becomes our friend. Seeing that reflection becomes motivation to soften further and lighten up more, because we know it's the only way we can continue to work with others and be of any benefit to the world.

-Pema Chodron in When Things Fall Apart


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