Opening the Door to Life
Pain is a result of what's called ego clinging, of wanting things to work out on our own terms, of wanting "me-victorious".
Ego is like a room of your own, a room with a view, with the temperature and the smells and the music that you like. You want it your own way. You'd just like to have a little peace; you'd like to have a little happiness, you know, just "gimme a break!"
But the more you think that way, the more you try to get life to come out so that it will always suit you, the more your fear of other people and what's outside your room grows. Rather than becoming more relaxed, you start pulling down the shades and locking the door. When you do go out, you find the experience more and more unsettling and disagreeable. You become touchier, more fearful, more irritable than ever. The more you just try to get it your way, the less you feel at home.
To begin to develop compassion for yourself and others, you have to unlock the door. You don't open it yet, because you have to work with your fear that somebody you don't like might come in. Then as you begin to relax and befriend those feelings, you begin to open it. Sure enough, in come the music and the smells that you don't like. Sure enough, someone puts a foot in and tells you you should be a different religion or vote for someone you don't like or give money that you don't want to give.
Now you begin to relate with those feelings. You develop some compassion, connecting with the soft spot. You relate with what begins to happen when you're not protecting yourself so much. Then, gradually, you become more curious than afraid. To be fearless isn't really to overcome fear, it's to come to know its nature. Just open the door more and more and at some point you'll feel capable of inviting all sentient beings as your guests.
Pema Chödrön is an American Tibetan Buddhist. She is an ordained nun, former acharya of Shambhala Buddhism and disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Chödrön has written several dozen books and audiobooks, and is principal teacher at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada.