Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.

Approach what you find repulsive


Kitten“I am at my Plum Blossom Sangha retreat. We are with 700 or more people at a beautiful location. One member handmade chocolate bonbons for everyone. There are at least 60 left, after we all take one. I am impressed with her efforts and ability to make so many treats. I get stressed making a cake for four friends.

I leave the retreat with inner calm, peacefulness and joy of being part of this beloved community. I am stepping out into the world energized and confident that I can respond with mindfulness and compassion to anything on my way.

As I approach the bridge over the large, wide river, I see a bunch of 10-year old boys with cats and kittens in their arms. They’re standing on the bridge, watching their friends swim in the river 60 feet below. I feel touched. What a sweet sight to see this rowdies care for those cats.

Then, all of a sudden, one boy throws his cat in the river. The cat panics, he hardly can stay afloat and almost drowns. I am horrified. I get so angry that I yell and scream at the boy. He is not impressed. He doesn’t care about the terror of the cat at all. He is rather amused with it.

Finally, I grab him by his neck and throw him in the river. I want him to feel what he did to the cat. I want him to be compassionate.

I feel ashamed as I walk off. How can I respond with such anger to the lack of compassion? What kind of Sangha-member am I that I can’t extend my compassion to the uncompassionate one? What happened to my carefully crafted mindfulness?”

As I wake up from my dream, I realize that I cannot inspire compassion in others, unless I embrace their sadist part. As long as I am stuck in repulsion, I cannot extend an open heart and invite them to relieve the suffering of all beings, instead of contributing to it.

And I realize that I cannot embrace their torturous pleasure, if I cannot embrace those parts within myself.

Approach what you find repulsive, help the ones you think you cannot help, go to places that scare you.”

This dream makes it crystal clear where my repulsive and scary places are: within myself.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping mission-driven professionals bring their lives into balance. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I'm currently in an ICF-coaching certification program. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

2 thoughts on “Approach what you find repulsive

  1. Great quote by Machik Labdron! Have you heard of Feeding Your Demons? That is what your blog post is talking about too.


    • Thanks, Iektje. I didn’t know the quote was from Machik Labdron. I read it in “When Things are Falling Apart” by Pema Chodron, and wrote it on a slip of paper and kept it in my bathroom ever since. That is now two years ago, so I am trying to make it a daily practice.

      Thank you too for following my blog! I feel honored that you signed up, and hope I can contribute to you by writing.


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