17. Practice the five strengths, the condensed heart instructions.

The two slogans of Point Four are a blanket approach: you are blanketing your entire life with exertion. It takes exertion to live properly and it also takes exertion to die properly. No matter how much we have studied or how many ideas we may have, without exertion, our understanding will be superficial, not transformative.

The first of the two (Slogan 17, this one) describes exertion in terms of five components: determination, familiarization, virtue, reproach, and aspiration.

Determination. First, instead of drifting through each day in a haze, you should consciously choose a course for your activities. You should set a direction and try to stick with it, whether it is for an hour, a day, or a longer period of time.

Familiarization. By engaging with exertion over and over again, the practice of mindfulness and loving-kindness becomes familiar territory for you, and is no longer a big deal. It is a part of you and not a project, but a way of life.

Virtue. In terms of loving-kindness, you keep setting your sights higher, and are not content with a half-hearted or partial approach to practice.

Reproach. With reproach you are willing to call a spade a spade. You recognize that it is your fascination with yourself, or your ego fixation, that causes you so much suffering and keeps you from developing loving-kindness and compassion. You don’t try to pretend otherwise. You are willing to reproach the ego and are determined to tame it and undermine its power.

Aspiration. Every time you practice, you should end by recommitting yourself to the service of others. You should aspire to attain enlightenment and cultivate mindfulness and loving-kindness so that you are capable to saving yourself and others, not matter what obstacles may arise.

Today’s practice

Pay attention to how you decide to spend your time. How much of your activity each day is intentional? Choose a day and try deliberately setting an intention to place whatever you are doing that day within the context of mindfulness and loving-kindness practice.

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