How should one handle difficult people?

Lama Ole’s answer:

When people are difficult, it’s usually best to let them do their own thing. Just keep your distance! You are not being paid to educate them. But if you can’t avoid them, then think, “I can learn patience here! Without patience, no enlightenment; without difficult people, no patience. Thank you!”

In any case, the best thing is simply to do what’s in front of your nose and not pay attention to anger. There is a story about Buddha himself. Someone came to him and really wanted to stir up trouble. Buddha listened for a while and then said, “If someone wants to give you a gift but you don’t take it, who does it belong to?” “To the giver!” the man replied. “So take your trip with you,” Buddha said. “Sorry, but I don’t need it or want it.”

You can very calmly examine whether you want to have the trip or not. If the troublesome person isn’t bothering you much, just see him as an exotic animal from the zoo. It’s different when someone is clearly disturbing many people. If they are harming others, then to some degree you have responsibility to deal with them. Then you have to check whether they are difficult because they are unable to act any other way, or whether they just want to be difficult. It’s probably best to praise them highly and then send them somewhere else. If that’s not possible because they dig their claws in and seek your constant attention, then try to make it clear to them that you don’t have much time and have to see what is possible.

But we should always have patience and also see such people as a mirror for our own mind. It also depends on our view whether we constantly meet difficult people or not. If a teacher comes into the classroom and thinks, “Oh no, what are these thirty gorillas doing here?” then he will not be able to teach the children much because you can’t teach gorillas much. But if he comes in and thinks, “Wow, what are these thirty Einsteins doing here?”—then everything becomes possible.

If you provoke difficult people, ignore them, and block them from getting what they want—making them angry—then you’ll build up negative Karma for yourself. But if you act with good motivation, if you want to help people, then things will work out well. It really depends on the motivation.

Could you please explain the meaning of equanimity?

Answer of Lama Ole Nydahl:

Equanimity means being constantly aware that we are all already buddhas, whether we know it or not. It means having no attachment and aversion, not dividing anything into categories like “good” or “bad,” and always wishing everybody all the best. Of course one still has to act and know what is right or wrong for oneself, but all this should happen without anger or bad feelings towards others.

The best antidote to jealousy and all kinds of expectations is very simple: you make yourself infinitely rich in your mind, and that way you can give others all the happiness in the world. Every time you think of someone you want something from—for example, you want him to love you—think, “May he have all the happiness imaginable.” Because if you feel rich yourself and are in the position to give and to wish the other something good, then you will never go wrong.

A situation gets difficult if it feels small and narrow. If, for example, your former partner is now with someone else and you think, “Oh, right now he is with her doing this or that thing which is so wonderful and special and which we always did together…”—this is a thought that catches you, that you won’t get rid of. This is a narrow situation. But if you wish him fifty dancing girls or—for the ladies—as many mustachioed officers on horseback as she wants, if you wish everything in abundance for the other, then it is not personal anymore but rather like watching a Disney movie. And suddenly the problem dissolves. With this approach, a small, personal thing turns into something profound, and you can grow very quickly by using this way of thinking as a turbocharger.

All at once, you get out of the darkness and really start to shine. You can crack jokes about things that were very touchy to you before, and work with the situation without limitations. This gives a lot of strength and has an exceedingly liberating effect. Then, in addition, you might be lucky enough to get an extra bit of good energy from the teacher, who pushes you in the right direction to quickly discover your own power. Wishing everyone all the best is really very good.

How can we best practice equanimity in everyday life?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Most people have little control over what they experience and how they experience it. They depend on outer conditions and their mood—meaning that they are nice when they feel good and difficult when they feel bad. Recognizing this, you can try to bring them into the best possible situations, so that they do as well as possible. This helps them have the chance to be nice. This way, so to speak, the stone rolls more and more often into another, better direction. They can create the habit of playing in the comedies of life rather than the tragedies.

You should not let yourself be disturbed by difficult people. Just think that they behave as well as they can and that they don’t know any better. Don’t take things so seriously and personally.

However, one shouldn’t become too overconfident in this regard either. If your fellow human beings call your attention to the same flaw in yourself again and again, and yet you’re convinced that all the others are wrong, then you’d better examine yourself carefully.

What is the difference between patience and indifference?

Lama Ole’s answer:

That is a really good question! Patience does not mean “doing nothing” or “being indifferent.” Rather, it means having an imperturbable, unshakeable mind in any situation and not having any anger in connection with what one is doing. So it means that we always prevail, that we go our own way and always try to do our best without being directed by disturbing emotions.

Is it possible to somehow use impatience in a meaningful way?

Lama Ole’s answer:

Yes, I think so! I will give you an example of how I deal with impatience. Impatience is always pleasant if it is like driving a car with the rev-counter in the green zone.

In the low, white zone, the pistons are pounding too hard, which is not good, and in the red zone the oil film may be damaged. So it is about staying in the middle, two to six thousand revolutions per minute.

The trick is to always have so many things to do at the same time that you stay within these limits. For example, if people are always asking a lot from you, then you are totally present with them. If they are a bit less close, you can do various practical things. And if they are well occupied with themselves, then maybe you can be with them and still write letters to keep your connections to others. If you always stay in the green, then you are using your impatience well and it becomes as useful as possible for everyone.

How can one learn patience?

Lama Ole’s answer:

I would say the easiest way is to avoid situations where you usually fall into the water. If you feel stronger after a period of avoiding something, then you can see the situation with more humor; you can laugh about it and see it from a beyond-personal level.

Also, if you start to keep more of a distance, then in the end you will be able to “let the thief come to an empty house.” This means simply not putting any energy into a feeling of impatience or agitation. Instead, see how the feeling runs here and there and how it tries to provoke you, but you don’t do anything. Then you can even use the energy of these feelings to wash the dishes, clean the car, or dig in the garden.

So to begin with, avoid situations where you get impatient. Once you are stronger and have more distance, you realize that it is like a dream anyway and you can observe the feeling without reacting to it.

But patience has to be learned, and it doesn’t simply mean holding out and reacting after a delay. One could sit there like a cat, waiting for hours for a mouse to finally pounce on it. This is not patience! It is important to create space for oneself, to be able to look at the situation from a distance. In this way a transformation can take place, if one wants to work with it. During this process, one can mature in such a way that more and more space and freedom arise. One develops more options for handling difficulties and no longer experiences any absolute blockage or obstacles.

Is it true that we use up our good karma if we have no patience?

Lama Ole’s answer:

To have no patience means to get angry. And getting angry burns all the different good karmas. The many positive impressions in one’s mind burn away and disappear.

There are a lot of beings in the world who think, say, and do good things—beings who build up a lot of positivity. But every time they get to a level where a change—a new dimension of awareness—is required, fear and uncertainty arise. Then the beings start to get angry and fall down. When the old habitual feelings and thoughts spread out again, the beings build up good things once more, fall down again, build up again, and so on.