Lessons from Shrek

“Inside each of us is a core of essential goodness and purity.  Wrapped around this core–this Buddha within–are layers of conditioned responses, attitudes, patterns, habits, and obscuring behaviors.  Some of these layers reflect the goodness of our basic Buddha-nature; others do not.  To fully awaken and reveal the Buddha within, we have to honestly recognize, acknowledge, and deal with the ingrained problematic conditioning that we all have.  We must have the inner strength and fortitude to honestly face these parts of ourselves.” Awakening the Buddhist Heart~ Lama Surya Das

Just like Shrek, everyone is made up of layers.  Deep within us lies our true nature, our Buddha heart.  Surrounding this core areSamskaras, a Sanskrit word which literally means tendencies or inclinations.  It can also mean impulses or the choices you make due to karma imprinting.  These samskaras are the layers that make up our being.  How we react to things (likes and dislikes) and more importantly, why.  You can think of them as the proverbial buttons everyone knows how to push.

The Tibetans put the samskaras into eight categories they call either the Eight Worldly Winds or the Eight Traps.

  • Pleasure and Pain
  • Loss and Gain
  • Praise and Blame
  • Fame and Shame

Every person has these eight buttons and when one is pushed we respond based upon our conditioned responses.  When you allow these responses to rule your life, we fail to find the “joyous freedom” and “spontaneous expression in the present moment.” You are slave to your responses.

By examining why you react in such a way, you are released from the conditioning and you are able to have peace.  For example, my biggest problem is how I deal with situations at work.   When a co-worker is demanding or demeaning, I immediately tense up and become defensive.  But when I stop and think about my reaction, I’m able to change my thoughts and response, giving me freedom.  Only when I become aware of my response and make a conscious effort to change it do I feel better, leading to  a (bit) less stressful existence.  Unfortunately, a lot of the times I react first, stop second.  By then it’s too late.  My blood pressure is sky high, I’ve spouted off in anger and I’m left frustrated and angry.  It takes a constant vigilance and awareness to stop letting the little things turn into big issues.  When I am fully present and paying attention to my reactions I am able to make the response that comes closer to my Buddha core.  I am able to strip away those layers of conditioned response and be the person I truly wish to be.  It takes practice. It takes patience but most of all, it takes awareness.

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” ~ George Eliot

If you live in the present and are aware of your responses to each button when it’s pushed, you are given the ability to just be. You, and only you, have the ability to control your reaction to certain situations. Strip away (become aware) why you are upset, angry, fearful, ashamed, etc. and give yourself the freedom to respond differently.  As you peal away the “layers” of conditioned response, you get closer to your Buddha core and are able to live a more spontaneous, blissful life.

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

~–Reinhold Niebuhr



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