What about ME?

golden gate in fogOne reason that compassion is our Buddha nature, I think, is because compassion is a natural response to reality. If we remove our wrong conceptions holding ourselves to be independent of others, and focus on our interdependence, which exists, our compassion will naturally grow and grow and grow until it becomes the universal compassion of a Buddha. By the same token, I think the reason why wisdom is part of our Buddha nature is because it is a natural response to the reality of emptiness. 

In the sunshine of wisdom and compassion, our delusions have no choice but to dissolve into our clear light mind like the San Francisco fog.

The ME mind

As mentioned, one reason we find our own painful thoughts so intolerable is because we are identifying with them. Another reason is that we are forgetting something quite significant, that we are one of countless people. So it is not really all about me. Therefore, that ME mind is the crux of our suffering, based as it is on an hallucination. We forget:

We are just one person among countless living beings, and a few moments of unpleasant feeling arising in the mind of just one person is no great catastrophe. ~ How to Solve our Human Problems

We grasp at our painful feelings as if they were a storm in a teacup instead of a tiny, passing storm in a vast global sky.

What about him?!

This is true, no? No one else really gives a monkeys, this is our private affair. When we get a glimpse into others’ minds and see their storm in a teacup, we might easily judge: “Get over it! Can’t you just drop it, or him or her, it’s not such a big deal.” Or “You haven’t lost that much money, what are you so worried about?!” But we grapple with our own problems like a dog with a bone because we are so obsessed with ourselves. “What about ME?” Our self-grasping and self-cherishing are like a black hole sucking everything into it.

As soon as we can identify with others, give ourselves a break from poor old me, there is relief. The “What about me?” mind hurts, for example comparing and contrasting our own situation unfavorably with everyone else’s. But everyone has a hard life, and we can use our own pain to remind us of that and slowly but surely get over ourselves.

As a self-proclaimed neurotic Tweeter put it the other day:

I’m a tiny speck in the infinite cosmos that feels fat. ~ Melissa Broder

Cruel world

famineThis ME mind blinds us to others’ suffering. Yesterday I was eating my supper while casually reading The Week’s page The World at a Glance:

Gabarone, Botswana: Up to 49 million people across Southern Africa are at risk of famine from the worst drought in three decades.

I had to read it again, surely I didn’t just read “49 MILLION PEOPLE”? But I did. How come I never knew this? Why isn’t it the headline on every news outlet? Why has it not occupied a single moment of my attention until now? Why is it just one short paragraph at the bottom of one page in a short-circulation magazine?

I don’t know. But I suspect our global self-cherishing has a lot to do with it. And it is awful.


Meanwhile, the truth is that the Me we are so desperate to serve and protect and freak out about doesn’t even exist.

Of course it feels right now like it exists, but in truth it is nothing more than the non-existent object of an unrealistic painful idea of ourselves.

deerIn the course of one day we tell stories to ourselves about ourselves, one day it’s I’m fabulous, other days it’s “I’m such a wreck, can’t keep anything together.” We have wildly different ideas about ourselves. We might say kind things to ourselves “You’re ok, you’re good”, and we get on with our lives, but then when we get angry, for example, there is the person we are angry with, whom we are holding in an exaggerated way as the source of our harm, and there is the Me we are holding onto in also in an exaggeratedly limited way, eg, “I am a hurt person, that’s who I am.” Then we have to do something to protect that poor hurt person from that really mean person, as described here.

As for the allegedly harmful person, we can go from zero to a hundred miles per hour with anger by exaggerating their faults and thinking about nothing else, leaving the nice bits about them conveniently on the cutting room floor. While we remain angry we give them no wriggle room — nothing they say or do makes much difference as anger has covered Mister Mean with superglue.

A few days ago I was invited to coffee just to have someone insult me in a myriad of quite creative (I thought) ways. But in the same conversation she was telling me about her dying mother, who insists on continuing to work through her painful illness because she wants to claim a $9,000 tax credit in April to give to her child. Wow, I thought. Stand up the real person, the one who is appearing unjust and weird to me, or the beautiful one loved beyond pain by her mother?pagoda

Choose freedom

In this article I explained how we have the chance to identify with our potential rather than with our painful limited self, and in this way come to our own conclusion that we want liberation. So why do we identify with pain? If we believed we had choice, would we not choose to identify with freedom, space, happiness? Ignorance removes our choice because it is convincing us that we are not creating the painful self and other, that these are independent of our mind; so then we have no choice but to go along with it all.

If we dream of a monster and run away from it, is it because the monster is actually there? Or is it because we are misapprehending the monster’s mode of existence? Ignorance is causing this misapprehension. In the same way, we are not in pain because a real self or bay area treesother is actually there, but because ignorance is causing us to apprehend both self and other as independent of the mind.

Realizing this about ourselves gives us renunciation. Realizing this about others gives us compassion.

More coming soon! Meanwhile, please share your experiences on this subject in the comments below.

(And thank you for giving me an excuse to share some San Francisco photos I took this week 😉 Kadampa Meditation Center SF was the first Kadampa Center in America. I have been visiting this beautiful, lovable center and community for their 25 Year Anniversary Celebrations.)

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 40 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to improve and transform our everyday lives and societies. I try to make it accessible to everyone anywhere who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

17 thoughts on “What about ME?”

  1. Hi,
    Great article😁, thankyou for doing these insights, taking the time out to read them is good, always going back to matters of the day with a lighter take on things can’t be bad! Have been readings your articles for years, you do a great service for us all😁.

  2. Thanks for sharing Luna, a beautiful perspective on compassion. I have often contemplated how the concept of compassion compares from an objective or even scientific perspective. My own thoughts lead me to appreciate that compassion compares to a state of scientific equilibrium; in that it is neither a positively or negativity charged concept. In fact it is arguably emotionless – a state found after emotions come to rest; just as energy settles when two fluids are mixed or a pendulum comes to rest. Maybe the ultimate state of compassion is appreciation of a non-dualistic universe. A condition of mind or being where a universal sense that everything is connected (as now appreciated in quantum physics etc) prevails. Obviously if this state of universal responsibility (if you like) could be realised by our minds the sense of I would have less baring. As humans we see the term compassion as a natural human emotion facilitating our natural empathy. However, from a scientific sense it could directly compare to a pure state of equilibrium. Maybe this is why it aligns so well with the concept of emptiness.
    Just food for thought. As you know, I like to use science as just another means to investigate and help justify the realisations that meditation and philosophical study can bring… Much Love. Neil x

  3. Geat article…so true!
    And thank you for helping to make this 25 th year anniversary event of our San Francisco center even more auspicious with your lovely presence,and profound and blissful teachings.💕✨🌟

  4. Hi Buddha Luna:)
    Thank you for another beautiful post. Trying to leave the Me mind, I guess, comes more easily when we think about our close family and loved ones and how we want them happy. I hopefully will be able to apply those feelings of love and compassion to others, strangers and trouble makers 😉 Is that the whole point of having a family, close friends and maybe children? To try and learn about unconditional love and then spread it?
    Xxx May samsara quickly cease

    1. Thank you 🙂 We always have a karmic circle in each life. Geshe-la suggests we start by cherishing them and then spread it out to everyone. Everyone has been our family, close friend, and child.

  5. This is a brilliant story. And a great cast of characters. The self-cherishing mind always plays two parts: the villain as well as the protagonist in every tale. Looking forward to your next chapter. As always, thanks for sharing.

  6. I was having this thought the other day. Since a Bodhisattva recognizes there is no difference between self and other, when they give; love, compassion, material help, they understand they are giving to themselves. If we had this recognition, we could easily give to others, because giving and receiving are of the same nature. If I believe in giving to you, I’m really giving to myself, then I would only want to give more. I’m trying to apply
    this more in my daily practice. I have lived most of my life in the “what about me”
    mind, and it is not a fun place to be. Thanks for so many inspiring blogs!

    1. You’re right, it is not a fun place to be. Wish we could remember that all the time so we don’t keep going back there. Lovely insight of yours on what it feels like to exchange self with others.

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