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ASK THE GUIDE

Compassionate Communication

(In Our Practice, Fall 2004)

QUESTION: I find compassionate communication easy as long as I’m detached and not taking anything personally, but as soon as I feel “involved,” forget it! What often happens is this: I’ll start to feel attacked or threatened, I feel tight in my chest, sort of a clawing feeling in there, my throat gets tighter, it’s harder to speak, my head feels pressurized, I’m thinking in terms of “justifying” my point of view, and it all goes to hell and I feel separate, misunderstood and very unsatisfied with the interaction. Yuck! And I walk away thinking about cutting this person out of my life. And yet as awful as this is, my ego mind feels that if I let go of my “point of view,” I’ll be weak and lose something. But I’m already losing something - my connection to other human beings! Gassho

Gassho

CHERI: Well, I’m sure you don’t need me to point out that what you’re describing, in our lingo, is a severe case of “identification.” You’re going along in a conversation, not attached and not taking anything personally, when faster than a speeding bullet, you’re hooked. You’re no longer that relaxed, disidentified individual who was there at the start of the exchange. Now you’re identified with an aspect of the personality (a subpersonality) who is deeply invested in a particular set of beliefs and assumptions. In fact, this personality’s whole existence hinges on keeping its particular perspective defended. The conversation has gone from interesting or entertaining to a matter of life or death.

When we become identified with the illusion of a separate self, we have no choice but suffering. The experience of oneself as other than center is one of alienation, isolation, and dissatisfaction. We feel misunderstood because we don’t understand. We are locked into a limited viewpoint. We have no perspective from which to observe ourselves. From that limited point of view it makes sense to eliminate the people and situations that cause us to feel this way. (There’s a big clue for us about identification—life is something that is being done to us.)

There’s another clue in conditioning’s conclusions about the situation. You are meant to think that it is concerned that if you let go its point of view, you will be weak and will lose something. Next time this happens, note that the personality says “I” will be weak and lose something. It is talking about itself, not you. And, it’s right. It will lose something and it will be weakened. That’s what we’re going for in awareness practice! Conditioning gets weaker and you find yourself with your identity in center.

It’s important to keep in mind that when we identify with egocentric, karmic conditioning we not only lose our connection with other human beings, we’ve lost our connection to our own true self. This is why, in awareness practice, the compassionate communication we are most concerned with is our own communication with our authentic nature. Gassho

 
Copyright 2003-2011 Cheri Huber