My Four Favorite Practices

Next to mindfulness of breath, here are four practices I have found helpful.

First, look at the contents of mind. Is suffering present (that is, do I detect a desire for the situation or person to be different than it is)? Ajahn Chah advised his students, “if suffering is present, you must be attached.” Be a detective and try to trace the attachment. Know that if tranquility does not exist in the world, it is because suffering exists within your own mind.

Kalu Rinpoche taught that

“We live in illusion and the appearance of things.
We live in the world of concepts.
There is a reality; we are that reality.
When we understand this, we see we are nothing
And being nothing, we are everything.”

Second, undertake equanimity practice. Equanimity is one of the seven factors of awakening. “Know that all beings are the owners of their own karma. Their happiness and unhappiness depend on their own actions, not on my wishes for them.” It is courageous to let go of our desire to change or save others. This does not mean we should not take wise action in relationship to others; however, we do need to relinquish attachment to specific outcomes.

Third, cultivate gratitude for the difficulties in life, including those people who are difficult. I have heard the story of the monastery which had a very difficult monk, one whom the others did not like. Eventually, the “difficult” monk decided to leave the monastery. The abbot persuaded him to stay for a while longer. When the other monks questioned this, the abbot replied that the “difficult” monk was necessary for their practice.

Lastly, cultivate an attitude of happiness. John Tarrant, a Zen teacher, provides a wonderful definition of happiness:

“To be happy is to experience life not as a series of struggles but as a gift, one that has no known limit. This doesn’t mean ignoring your difficulties: it means not assuming that they are what you think they are. If you throw away everything you believe about your difficulties you will notice that many of them disappear and the rest become interesting.”

 

Posted by Deb.