Janet Solyntjes, MA, has taught meditation and body awareness practices for over twenty years. She leads meditation and yoga retreats in the United States and Canada, is a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher, a senior Shambhala Training director, and Adjunct Professor at Naropa University. She cofounded The Center for Courageous Living with her husband, Jeff Price. The center promotes the inherent goodness of individuals and groups by uncovering their basic health and well-being. These qualities are revealed through a mindful exploration of our many relationships in the world: to self, family, and community. Through this process, natural wisdom arises that guides the individual to be of service to others. Thus, the center’s vision is to cultivate a healthy, sane, and caring society.
Q. How do you respond to someone who feels his or her path is the only right one?
A: We hear advice like, “Just remain in love,” but we cannot maintain this state without practice. For example, if one person says to another, “You’re going to hell,” then that person is no longer in a state of love. This illustration shows how our true nature can get confused by what we are taught. When I hear world leaders use black and white terms, I feel the pain and confusion beneath the surface, almost like a firm grasping onto a limited notion of who they believe they are. I respond by holding a larger space for the pain and confusion because I realize it’s not the person’s fault. Usually many generations of conditioning are involved. Recently I jokingly asked my niece, a born again Christian, “So, do you think I am going to hell?” She responded by giving a rehearsed answer that was not from her heart. If I could get her to say her true feelings—that I am going to hell—it might be a step forward.
Q. What do you think of the concept that my enemy is my lover?
A: When we have an experience of enemy, whether external or internal, it’s an invitation to go deeper and join the lover part. Because we feel so strongly, we have the juicy energy needed to merge with it, unlike times when we feel indifferent. For example, I recently reacted to someone with whom I find it difficult to communicate. I could justify my feelings based on this person’s behavior but that would deny this individual’s basic goodness. As the Dalai Lama says, “Just like you, they want happiness. No different.” So when we bring happiness—even to an enemy—we merge with the lover part. The aggression and fear that separates us is gone and we melt into the moment.
In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Anger, he offers, “If someone insults you, give a gift in your mind.” This cuts the habitual way of reacting. Sometimes we think, I’m so peaceful and loving. Then boom, something happens to get us out of sorts. When things are peachy keen, we’re probably not maturing. These booms give us a path to work with. As Hanh’s example shows, he strengthened his compassion by making the enemy lover.
For the rest of the interview, please check out the book, Seek The Lover Within: Lessons from 50 Spiritual Leaders.