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Dharma Connect: Two Ways to 'Lean In'

You can tell whether something is an aspiration or a god -- whether it's an intention to work toward something or a desire to simply have it -- by the tension around it.

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Instead of pulling back from the pain ... we move closer. We lean into the wave. We swim into the wave.

Pema Chodron, Looking Into Laziness

“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”
Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In

For Sandberg, whose book is a cultural phenomenon, generating debate and blog posts for the past several weeks, leaning in is a way of building ego, of winning status, defeating competitors. Women should lean in rather than pass up opportunities for advancement because they are looking too far in the future when they may want other things, like children.

Chodron talks about leaning in as a way of cutting through fixation. In The Places That Scare You, she talks about using emotions to see where we are attached
 

Feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we're holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in, when we feel we'd rather collapse and back away. They're like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we're stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it's with us wherever we are.


This week I've been at a retreat with Lama Tsultrim Allione on "Feeding Your Demons." There are demons, those things that scare us, and there are god-demons, those things we want so much that they become an obsession. God-demons don't look at what truly would be of benefit for us or others, they want what looks or feels good.

Lama says you can tell whether something is an aspiration or a god -- whether it's an intention to work toward something or a desire to simply have it -- by the tension around it. Sandberg's "lean in" sounds like a tactic to make someone uncomfortable by invading their personal space, like a way to attain something you want or think you deserve.

Chodron's lean in, however, is actually about relaxing into the moment, staying with the discomfort, not fighting with it, to learn from it.

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