Blanche Hartman

‘I noticed somewhere in the early years of my practice that my big effort was to get people to love me. I really wanted people to love me. And what I discovered in practice was that it really didn’t matter what other people thought. The one whose love and appreciation and approval I wanted was right here. I wanted approval from here, and I wouldn’t give it to myself. What I found out was that no matter how much approval I got from outside, it didn’t count if I was not able to appreciate myself and be willing to be who I am. Whatever this is, it has become this over an accumulation of the actions of body, speech, and mind over more than eighty years. It’s my creation in a way. And it’s really helpful if I acknowledge it and befriend this being that I have created with the help of all the beings with whom I have shared my life. ‘ (Seeds for a Boundless Life)

Having known Blanche over the last fifteen years of her life, I can attest to how hard she could sometimes be on herself, but it was clear how she used her practice to work with her own tendencies, and it is wonderful how honest she was in her self-appraisal. I also remember her telling me, when I was tenzo, in charge of feeding the community, that Sojun Mel Weitsman had made her tenzo, knowing that she wanted everyone to love her, and that in that role, she would soon realise that she could not keep everyone happy, because someone would always have an opinion about the food that was served.

It is important not to come away from this passage with the idea that since other people’s opinions don’t matter, so we can just behave as we wish. As Blanche concludes, we exist as a self only in conjunction with the people who surround us and help us become who we are, and we in term help them become who they are. That awareness will foster a desire to be more skilful in our interactions with people, rather than trying to run roughshod over them because we are not concerned with how they feel. This is another example of expedient means: because of her tendency to over-value other people’s approval, Blanche knew she had to cultivate a little more self-stability. My karmic upbringing was more aligned with wanting to appear to be independent and not worrying about other people, so it is always helpful for me to pay attention to the feedback I get, especially when I make mistakes, and to consciously cultivate connection with others.

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