Not knowing how to act during a difficult moment can be frustrating—but there’s a way to get better at it. The following excerpt is from Pema Chödrön’s The Compassion Book: Teachings for Awakening the Heart, which features the 59 Tibetan Buddhist lojong, or “mind-training,” slogans, as well as concise commentaries to guide you toward a compassionate way of living.
Pema Chödrön advises picking a slogan at random each morning and then applying its message to experiences that arise as you go about your day. Over time, this practice will equip you with quick, skillful pointers for how to act (and react) in any given situation.
Related: Making Friends with Oneself
Here are eight to get you started:
In postmeditation, be a child of illusion
When you finish sitting meditation, if things become heavy and solid, be fully present and realize that everything is actually pliable, open, and workable. This is instruction for meditation in action, realizing that you don’t have to feel claustrophobic because there is always lots of room, lots of space.
Whatever you meet unexpectedly, join with meditation
The unexpected will stop your mind. Rest in that space. When thoughts start again, do tonglen [a meditation on compassion], breathing in whatever pain you may feel, thinking that others also feel like this, and gradually becoming more and more willing to feel this pain with the wish that others won’t have to suffer. If it is a “good” shock, send out any joy you may feel, wishing for others to feel it also. Meeting the unexpected is also an opportunity to practice patience and nonaggression.
Related: Tonglen on the Spot
All dharma agrees at one point
The entire Buddhist teachings (dharma) are about lessening one’s self-absorption, one’s ego-clinging. This is what brings happiness to you and all beings.
Always maintain only a joyful mind
Constantly apply cheerfulness, if for no other reason than because you are on this spiritual path. Have a sense of gratitude to everything, even difficult emotions, because of their potential to wake you up.
Don’t talk about injured limbs
Don’t try to build yourself up by talking about other people’s defects.
Work with the greatest defilements first
Gain insight into your greatest obstacles—pride, aggression, self-denigration, and so forth—and work with those first. Do this with clarity and compassion.
Don’t transfer the ox’s load to the cow
Don’t transfer your load to someone else. Take responsibility for what is yours.
From The Compassion Book: Teachings for Awakening the Heart by Pema Chödrön © 2006. Reprinted with permission from Shambhala Publications. www.shambhala.com
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