I was recently talking with a friend about the challenges that can arise in seeing all people as equal (yet different). We were actually discussing a basic Buddhist perspective that everyone is ‘the Buddha’ or has Buddha nature. For me, regardless of the ‘spiritual’ teaching or text…..essential equality is a simple truth. In my authentic core I can find no reason for this to be ‘untrue’.
But it doesn’t mean it’s easy to practice…..
I was remembering a few years ago when I was on tour in the SE. I had gone out for my morning walk and was pondering the difficulty I was experiencing with ‘living’ this simple truth on a daily basis. I questioned more deeply and asked myself what it was that got in ‘my way’ of being able to see each and every person without exception as equal; no one person intrinsically greater than or lesser than another.
The general reply I found was ‘personality’.
I would get stuck around people’s personalities and my ensuing preferences and opinions about them. Basically, nuances in my personality juxtaposed with theirs.
Over the years, I had developed the ability to find space in my attachment to my own personality but there would still be those exceptions, those individuals where it would get sticky for me.
With the exception of becoming a hermit, I wanted to create a tool or practice to help me dissolve this stickiness.
As I continued to walk, I noticed I was in this lush garden district filled with such incredible variety of flowers and trees. I saw particular types of flowers and trees that I thought ‘I love those, they are my favorite’….etc.
And as I noticed my personality and preference expressing itself for these ‘personalities’ in nature, I wondered if I could see all of this plant variety around me as ‘equal’ and individually (and collectively) beautiful. And believe me, there are some plants that I could easily not see as ‘equal’ to others. So, on that morning walk I began to ‘practice’ with the plants…..and I practiced every day.
After a little time I was able to let go of the stickiness of comparison/judgement and just accept each plant I encountered with equal appreciation. (I still have my opinions or preferences but I have created space to choose my perspective moment to moment….stickiness is not the ‘default’)
With my new tool and lots of enthusisam I thought ‘I am ready to now apply what I have learned to people!’
Needless to say, it didn’t work the same with humans as plants. There was still so much attachment and ego fluctuation in relation to certain people and interactions.
So I pondered some more…..wondering if there was a middle step….a place where personality would be less potent….?
And I thought about newborn babies; the way they can feel less ‘sticky’ for me. (They certainly have personality, but seem to be less ‘filled’ with it.)
So I decided to try something else.
Any time I found it difficult to see someone as ‘equal to’ (and without comparison to) others…..I would imagine them when they were first born. As soon as I did this, everything just came into balance and the attachments/judgements evaporated. It was like a love bomb went off and there was no need for the comparisons of greater than/lesser than. It was a simple space of ‘being’….neutral witnessing.
By using this tool I found a way to work with these ‘sticky personality’ moments and find a reprieve from my conditioned mind. I was able to create more space and compassion, not only for the complexities of the personalities of others……but for myself too.
Ahhh yes, a lifetime of study and practice…..