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Saturday, 2 June 2012

How to Deal with Criticism

Learn to reject criticism. Insulate yourself.
What they see in you is a reflection of their very self. What you don't have in you, you can't see in others.

It is inevitable; criticism. It is always an opinion of the other person. If you agree with their judgement, their criticism may prompt you to improve yourself. However, if you disagree, you may be embracing negativity. Negative emotions weaken you. Sometimes, it can be hard to deal with criticism, especially if it comes from your loved ones. When others try to unload their negativity and opinions onto you, at that moment, you have a choice, an option to reject, to discard, to let go. If you can let go, you will remain peaceful; your heart will not be wounded, certainly not as much. Let me share a story with you:

There was a certain monastery in Japan. It was founded by a Chinese master long time ago. The master and his followers were known for destroying religious texts and other such artifacts as Buddha's statues and religious symbols. Their rationale was to free themselves from any form of conditioning and attachment. They believed that such symbols and texts conditioned and shackled the mind rather than freeing it. Radical methods of the Chinese masters helped many gain the transcendental state. However, those who disagreed with their methods criticized them heavily.

Once, two seekers, well educated, one even being a professor, from North America, visited that monastery. They were fairly well read and had preconceived notions about the place and its founder. The abbot received them and took them around for a tour of the monastery. Towards the end of the tour, the Roshi, elder master, led them into a ceremonial hall to pay respects to a statue of the founder by prostrating and offering incense. The two seekers were disturbed as they had read all about the founder and his radical acts. Although disconcerted, they followed quietly.

When the Roshi bowed before the statue, the professor could no longer contain himself and blurted out, "This man you idolize, he burned and spat on Buddha statues! Why do you bow before him?"

"If you want to spit, you spit," replied the Roshi calmly, "I prefer to bow."

There you go! Whether you spit or bow is your choice, and whether they bow or spit is their choice. You exercise yours and let them exercise theirs. I am reminded of a quote, "Those who love you don't need an explanation, and those who don't are not going to believe one anyway." When you are offered criticism, you may choose to clarify your position, only if you truly wish to do that. You may wish to reflect on it, for, such criticism may even be true. Beyond that, do not cause yourself grief by brooding over others' thoughts and opinions. Reject it. Promptly.

Your freedom, inner bliss, is entirely in your own hands. It is your own state of mind. What you do not accept can never affect you. Just like you, everyone has a right to their opinion. Till you  rise above criticism, you must discover your own method to deal with it. Here are some of the popular ones for you:

1. Remove yourself physically: If you can remove yourself physically, you will no longer hear their opinions. If you are unable to hear what they are able to say, you will not be grieved. You may choose to go out or go for a walk.
2. Disappear mentally: If you can find something else to focus on, so that you are listening to your inner music, you will retain your blissful state. It is like listening to your iPod while the other person is watching TV. They are doing what they like and you are doing what you like.
3. Visualize: Choose a visualization that may help you. When someone decides to turn on their FM channel, you may see them as a blabbering child, a radio, or anything else that insulates you.
4. Sympathize: If you pay attention you will discover that those who criticize you are full of their own insecurities. Those in bliss and peace do not criticize. They may politely offer their point of view, but you will not see them criticize. Next time when you are faced with criticism, fill your heart with empathy towards the other person. They might have had a rough childhood or an unfulfilling life. This is the only way they have learned to protect and express themselves. The method of sympathizing is the most compassionate way. If you can practice this, not only will you experience great peace, you will trigger a subtle transformation in the other person too.

Just like upon boarding a plane your destiny is in the hands of the pilot, when you take the flight of an argument, it is no longer about you alone. If you choose to react or respond to criticism in kind, you have just procreated a new entity of disharmony and negativity, you have already boarded at that time. The control is less and less in your hands. You may unnaturally curb other person's response if you exercise greater authority, but the damage is already done.

How about when you are criticizing? If you are not kind enough, big enough to appreciate what the other person is doing for you, do not be so small to criticize either. There is a difference between helping someone improve and being downright negative about what they are doing. If you do not understand their point of view, it does not mean they are wrong. Be fair. Remember the two sets of rules?

Yes, you want to make a point. Yes, you really believe the other person is at fault. Surely, you know what all they can do to improve. There is no doubt in your mind that you are impartial and your statements, genuine. The truth is, the other person feels exactly the same about herself. 

It is all in you, not all about you!

Peace.
Swami

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