30. Don’t be so predictable.

When we work with mind training and the development of bodhichitta, we are interrupting our usual way of going about business. We find that many of our actions are programmed and extremely predictable and we notice that in other people as well.  This is why it is so easy to push each other’s buttons. It is why it is so easy to manipulate and to be manipulated.

If we do not make an effort to do otherwise, if we do not pay attention, then much of what we do will be in the form of automatic reactions. We can see this whole process as it is happening, although often we do not. We might recognize it in the sinking feeling of “Here I go again.” We might see it coming, but our reaction is so fast that we can’t stop ourselves.

This kind of predictability is fueled by the self-centered undercurrent of fascination with our own concerns and disinterest in others except to the extent that they either threaten or feed our own desires. When someone does us harm, we hang onto our grudge about that for a very long time. But when someone helps us, we take it for granted, and soon forget it.

We do not have to be so programmed and predictable. If we cultivate awareness enough to step back a bit from simply reacting, we can insert a gap or a pause before being carried away. In that little gap there is the freedom to respond in a fresh way, less predetermined. When we respond from a more dispassionate perspective, and are not just caught in the game of defending or promoting our ego, it is as though a different world opens up. We begin to see how our limited focus has prevented us from developing a bigger vision of what is going on and how best to respond to it.

Today’s practice

When you feel threatened, don’t get defensive, pause, and then react. When you are praised, don’t just lap it up, pause, and then react. What do you notice?  Explore the contrast between using experience to further your own agenda and seeing it from a broader perspective.

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