True Refuge

October 31st, 2015 by Kelly Kienzle

Buddhists believe that false refuge is where we go when we feel terrible and hope to feel better. We think we will find refuge there, but then we don’t actually feel better afterwards. In fact, we may even feel worse.

Blowing up an afternoon by eating Doritos on the couch while watching a movie we don’t enjoy is false refuge. Proverbially kicking the dog after a bad day at work is false refuge. Even telling ourselves that someone else’s cutting remarks about us are really true can be a false refuge. (If we accept that their comments are true, then that person wasn’t actually being mean to us. They were just telling the truth. We are seeking false refuge in choosing to accept the harsh judgments of others as facts.)

Yet none of these things actually makes us feel better. So then what is a true refuge? How do we actually feel better after a bad day or a cutting remark or a gluttonous feast? How do we come back from that precipice?

Perhaps it is by returning to what makes us feel good and centered. Perhaps it is by taking a dry-eyed look at the situation and acknowledging where we could do better next time. Or perhaps it is by remembering that life is too short for cutting remarks to carry much lasting value at all.

Understanding what is our true refuge gives us safe harbor. From a place of true refuge we can more accurately assess what is our version of the truth and where we want to go next.

As you prepare for your next work week or challenging project, consider what could be your true refuge. Then seek it out.

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