“It’s an interesting dichotomy. Everything is changing, and we find a certain stability in the fact that everything is changing.”
In this webinar, psychoanalyst and Buddhist practitioner Dr. Pilar Jennings joins meditation teacher Allan Lokos to discuss patience and perseverance in times of change. Lokos and Dr. Jennings explain how Buddhist philosophy and practice can help us to manage the fears and anxieties of the pandemic, as well as the tumult of our current moment of global awakening to a deeper understanding of systemic injustices.
This lesson can help us build tools – not to prevent experiencing negative emotions like anger or fear, but to better understand, acknowledge and honor those feelings when they do arise, so that we do not have to be controlled by them. Lokos says that sometimes people think of patience as a form of suppression.
“The truth is, when we speak about working with patience, what we’re really doing is working with impatience”
This skill is particularly crucial now, as we adapt to new ways of being in the world and interacting with others. We can of course take reasonable, medically recommended precautions to protect ourselves and our loved ones – but how do we accept risks outside of our control, and maintain patience when others’ actions threaten our own safety and well-being? In a moment of frustration, how do we decide which inconveniences to let go of, and which necessitate confrontation to stand up for ourselves or others?
Through the lens of 8th century philosopher Shantideva’s teachings, Lokos and Dr. Jennings illuminate the concept of bare experience and how we can find sacred pauses – which allow us to respond to triggering situations thoughtfully and avoid harmful kneejerk reactions. Dr. Jennings explains that responding mindfully also means accepting the consequences of our actions:
“There’s some trust involved here, that there are going to be healing ripple effects… We might in that moment get a problematic response – and some of our most skillful heroes and mentors got extremely problematic responses, as they were speaking truth to power, or engaging with collective suffering, but they leave a legacy of healing. And so as the Buddha said, that is the work.”
Lokos and Dr. Jennings then turn to the challenges of practicing patience in difficult times. When we do make the choice to engage with collective suffering, to combat racism and colonialism and work together towards a more equitable world – we must also consciously care for our own mental health to prevent burnout. At times, we may struggle with doubt, overwhelm, and frustration at not seeing the change we want. But through Buddhist practice, we can become aware of the purpose these feelings serve. They are not a sign of spiritual weakness, but instead an important part of the journey. Dr. Jennings says:
“On the spiritual path, there are usually times of extreme doubt… the Buddha said, don’t let the doubt stop you, keep nurturing your self-esteem, keep reinforcing that underneath the neurosis, underneath any trauma history, is extraordinary capacity to deal with reality. But you have to keep trying, you have to keep practicing, you have to just show up again and not let the doubt have the last word.”
This session concludes with a guided practice led by Dr. Jennings, followed by an insightful Q&A segment. To learn more about either these speakers work, to register for upcoming classes and events, or to purchase their published works, please visit Allan Lokos’ website and Dr. Pilar Jennings’ website.
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Allan Lokos is the founder and guiding teacher of the Community Meditation Center. He is the author of Through the Flames: Overcoming Disaster Through Compassion, Patience, and Determination; Pocket Peace: Effective Practices for Enlightened Living; and Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living. He has been interviewed by the NY Times, CBS Sunday Morning, the Chicago Tribune and more than one hundred radio and television programs. Among the places he has taught are Columbia University Teachers College, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, The Rubin Museum, The Milken Institute, Tibet House US, and Upaya Zen Center. Allan has practiced meditation since the mid-nineties and studied with some of the world’s most renowned teachers, including Thich Nhat Hanh, Sharon Salzberg, Joseph Goldstein, and Stephen Batchelor. Earlier in this life Allan enjoyed a career as a professional singer appearing in, among many others, the original Broadway Production of Oliver!
Dr. Pilar Jennings is a psychoanalyst based in New York City with a focus on the clinical applications of Buddhist meditation practice. She has been working with patients and their families in private practice and through the Harlem Family Institute since 2000. Dr. Jennings has been a Buddhist practitioner for the past 40 years and is a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism in the Sakya lineage. She is a Visiting Lecturer at Union Theological Seminary; Columbia University; and a faculty member of the Nalanda Institute for Contemplative Science. She has given workshops and retreats internationally on the Buddhist and psychoanalytic approach to trauma, the relevance of spirituality in clinicians, and the unfolding conversation between Buddhist and developmental psychology. She is the author of Mixing Minds (Wisdom 2010), and To Heal a Wounded Heart (Shambhala 2017), a psychoanalytic memoir about her entry into clinical work as a Buddhist clinician.
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