15 June 2010

Women and confidence

"With the realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world." - Dalai Lama
I hosted a little workshop last night for women, so we could talk about confidence and self doubt. The idea for it came during a recent meeting of people involved in teaching and supporting introduction to Buddhism courses. I was struck at the many issues of confidence that arose for the women. They said things like, "If I'm teaching and I feel afraid or I'm thinking how stupid I am...' I asked the men if they tended to have thoughts like that. For most of them, over-confidence seemed to be more of an issue.

Then the other day in a cafe, a woman asked if she could plug her laptop into the outlet near our table. She apologized profusely, around three times! It seems sometimes that women have a tendency to doubt ourselves and doubt our worth, our right even to be alive, to inhabit the space that we take up, to ask for anything.

In Buddhism we can talk about the 'progress of the self'' in terms of moving from a negative self view to a positive self view, then into no self view. The same could be said about self confidence, that as we practice we move from self doubt to self confidence to no need for either.

Here are the questions we reflected on:
  1. Think of a time you felt confident. What did it feel like? What were the conditions?
  2. Think of a time you felt fear or self doubt. What did it feel like? What were the conditions?
  3. What are the particular areas you feel confident in? In which ones does self doubt tend to creep in?
  4. Does your 'inside' level of confidence match the appearance on the outside?
  5. What habits do you have that support confidence? What habits do you have that erode your confidence?
  6. Are there steps you could take to work more effectively with your self doubt or fear?
  7. Are there specific ways we, your friends here, could be more supportive or encouraging to you and help you develop confidence?
  8. Do you support or encourage other women in the sangha? Are there specific things you could do to be more supportive?
Here are some notes I jotted down during the meeting listing a few conditions around self doubt and confidence.

Self doubt arises...
fear of groups/groups of women
lack of communication skills in conflict
negative feedback from others
fear of failure
comparing self to others
going for refuge to others
inner critic
doubting own perceptions

Confidence arises...
sharing inner process with another person
acknowledge different parts of me
confession (with trust)
not believing self critical thoughts
being more open-hearted
re-read nice things people have said in emails
tonglen practice
feeling embodied
feeling connected to others
working in first stage of metta bhavana
acknowledge my own perception

image by banksy

04 June 2010

Response to recent PBS film, The Buddha

Amazing that David Grubin, who is not a Buddhist, could have presented such an accurate yet inspiring film on the Buddha's teachings, without falling into the usual traps and misunderstandings. Part 2 did an excellent job focusing on the teachings. Much of the first half was animated and seemed more like a children's story, focused as it was on folklore (how the Buddha was born out of his mother's side, etc.)

The only thing in the film that really bothered me was the scene in which the Buddha, leaving the palace, doesn't say goodbye to his wife because it would be too painful, which of course makes him seem not like an important spiritual hero, but rather, like a coward.

Stories of the Buddha's life are mostly fiction. For example, it is unknown whether he even had a wife and child, whether that was added on later to add to give him credibility. Just goes to show that 'credible' in one culture can be 'dead beat dad' in another.

Anyway I prefer this version of the leaving of the palace:
When the prince awoke in the night he was shocked to see these sleeping people. What a sight! All the prettiest, most charming dancing girls, the finest singers, best musicians and cleverest performers in the country, who, hours ago, were trying to make the prince so happy, were now all over the floor of the room in the most ugly, shameful and loathsome positions. Some people were snoring like pigs, with their mouths wide open, some grinding and chewing their teeth like hungry devils. This alteration in their appearance made the prince even more disgusted and unhappy. "How oppressive and stifling this all is," he thought, and his mind turned again towards leaving the palace.


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