“The fourth incarnation of the sixteenth century lama, Karma Thinley, once asked me ‘How does Western psychology treat nervousness?’ ‘Why do you ask?’ I responded. ‘Well,’ he replied, ‘I’ve always been a nervous person. Even when I was a little boy, and I still am. Especially when I have to talk to large groups of people.’ Those who knew Karma Thinley considered him to be an enlightened being. Who was I to tell him how to deal with anxiety? And how was it possible that he was still troubled by such everyday concerns? How could an enlightened person be socially anxious? Was he really enlightened? What does it mean to be enlightened? My head swirled with all of the inchoate questions, and for a moment my mind stopped. I felt a sense of warmth coming from Karma Thinley and I felt warmly towards him. I felt young, soft, open and uncertain about everything I knew.” -Jeremy Safran
Imagine the pressure of being recognized as an awakened being. People come to you seeking the ultimate advice, projecting every stereotype of enlightenment onto you. Being a normal human is totally out of the question. The way you sit, speak, and move is scrutinized by all. Now, imagine despite all this pressure - you are able to completely subvert expectations, and admit you're nervous in front of crowds.
Is there anything more enlightened than that? As Pema Chodron says: “In every moment we make a choice. Which way do we go? How do we relate to raw experience?” In this moment, Karma Thinley didn’t have a hint of ego or conceit. He didn’t care what someone would think of him, he was open and aware of his lived experience. He saw in front of him a renowned psychotherapist, and sought an answer to a simple question. That’s it.
His moment of vulnerability is a great teaching. Reminding us to connect with our original softness. Stop building up defences - and remember:
“We’re all just walking each other home” - Ram Dass
It is as it is.