In all actions I will examine my mind
And the moment a disturbing attitude arises,
Endangering myself and others,
I will firmly confront and avert it.
Today I will practice this verse from the Eight Verses of Thought Transformation. Inspiring verses about loving neighbors, turning cheeks and being the change are easy to find. But instructions for how to actually do those things are more rare.
Mindfulness keeps me from being distracted. It holds my attention on an understanding of which mental states are beneficial and which are harmful.
Introspective awareness follows from mindfulness. It recognizes when I become distracted and my mind falls into a negative state. It acknowledges the arising of disturbing attitudes and mental afflictions, so that I can apply their antidotes and return to a neutral or positive state.
With the two mental factors of mindfulness and introspective awareness, I will examine my mind. Of course disturbing attitudes will arise. Instead of becoming absorbed and taken by them, I’ll use my own mind to see them. Instead of letting them control my actions, hurling me around like a tornado, I’ll ground myself firmly with mindfulness, focusing on their disadvantages.
Since mental afflictions directly disturb my peace of mind and lead me to act in ways directly and indirectly creating misery for myself and for others, they are my worst enemy. If I’m to ever speak of “success” in my life, it only makes sense to due so in terms of the degree to which I’ve been able to subdue my own mind and abandon these distorted mental attitudes.
The value of a peaceful mind is deeply understated in our culture. There is little more precious than this. Today, I will firmly confront and avert destructive emotions.
When attachment towards food, people, money, or possessions arise, I’ll reflect on impermanence. All things will age and disintegrate; the pleasure derived from them quickly vanishes and turns to pain or disappointment; and I myself will die and go on with nothing save my mind and imprints of my actions. Seeing this, I’ll avert attachment.
When aversion towards people or situations arises, I’ll reflect on love. All beings wish for happiness and wish to avoid suffering. They deserve happiness. Anger only hurts myself. May they have happiness and its causes. Difficult situations simply arise – this is the nature of my existence. Anger only creates more suffering. Seeing this, I’ll avert aversion.
When ignorance regarding situations or objects arises, I’ll reflect on dependent origination. All things, people, and events arise in dependence upon causes and conditions. Many factors contribute to the existence of anything. Ignorance takes things to exist as independent entities, which leads to attachment and aversion and all sorts of harm. It further ignores the reality that my own actions, words, and thoughts produce effects. It prevents me from seeing reality clearly and from attaining what I want – happiness. Seeing this, I’ll avert ignorance.