A. I think this is a very good question and one that most of us committed to the Dharma could honestly admit experiencing. We take ourselves far too seriously, and that ingrained self-view that we must protect at all costs is the reason for this. When we see this, we see how enveloped and imprisoned we are by this self-view.

I think one of the skilful ways to deal with this is not to be afraid to make mistakes, or to make a fool of yourself in other people’s eyes. Be prepared to experiment. When you are about to fall into an old familiar reactive way of looking after your image of yourself – and therefore retreating to familiar and safe ground – don’t go there. Take the opportunity to open and respond in a different way. Always experiment and be prepared to take a chance. This might bring up self-consciousness and fear. Open to it, but don’t retreat. Your new and previously untried action may mess things up, or could even be something unskillful that you think others will react to, but don’t worry. Play with it with honesty and be prepared to get it wrong. Who knows? You may get it right. And if you should feel foolish, open to that. Is it really that important? Or are we only concerned with playing it safe and protecting that self-image? I believe to take the opportunity to loosen ourselves up in any given situation by not hiding behind our defences is vital in developing our ability to respond correctly and spontaneously to life’s challenges.