Say something nice -- and if you can't, don't say anything
I remember very well the day I arrived in Copenhagen for one of my first Buddhist workshops. It was in November 1979, and on the way there, I had stayed overnight in a moist farmhouse which caused me to caugh incessantly. One of my compassionate Buddhist female buddies had not been able to sleep well, due to my caughing, and she said: "I'm not going to sleep another night with you around!" So when I approached the reception in the Copenhagen house to check in, I asked if they had single rooms, too. (Oh, I was ready to pay a little more!). Usually, we pilgrims slept side by side on camping mats, sometimes in the temple if it was crowded, once I slept on the office floor without a mat.
The lady at the reception, a sturdy and radiant viking lady, smiled at me brightly and said: "Oh, I know exactly what you want: A single room with a bath and a view on the sea."
Gosh, I was taken aback. A little shocked, even. Was this the Buddhist compassion?
A few months later, I made remarks like this to other newbies. And they learnt to laugh about it, just as I learnt it. A few weeks later. I learnt that the aim is getting rid of the ego, taking oneself less important, and this demands a sense of humor. Pride is ego. But, what is more important: Being a victim is ego, and this is worse ego than pride.
We support one another. We confirm one another about what we're doing. This is great. For centuries -- sorry -- for decades I was yearning for approval, something I have been striving for since childhood -- and don't we all? Some of us lack this when they need it most.
This is heartbreaking. Yes, we need to be confirmed, to be strengthened by other's appreciation, and I found that it heals old wounds to give this confirmation to others much more than to get it.
Hearing praises blocks efforts
Success can be a problem. To say it in a Zen way: The innocence of undesigned action is lost. To act non-action doesn't mean to be lazy and lethargic, it is the flow of not planning, but working in a natural way. How does blogging influence this process? We work in public, share steps and phases before we show the complete work. This is highly social and it is welcomed by other bloggers who get inspiration and know-how. It is so different from the lonely experimenting before. It has helped me to an enormous extent to find a direction.
Yet I want to encourage my readers to criticize, too. This is difficult in a society in which each one "thinks for others". This responsible feeling is stronger in the USA than it is in Europe. It is close to tutalizing sometimes. If someone gets hurt, it is my fault.
It is great to be social and compassionate, but it should not fence us in. Sometimes, confidence in other's ability to take a critical remark is needed. Supporting someone else's ego by respecting their vulnerability may not be better than helping by saying: "Oh, you can do better".
I had an arts teacher who decapitated one of my drawings with the remark: "This is young girls' kitsch."
He was a great teacher. And I knew he was right. I'm grateful even now, 45 years later.