Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

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.

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