24: Change your attitude, but remain natural

What attitude is this slogan talking about, and why should we change it? What is an attitude anyway? It seems to me that an attitude is our customary way of thinking about things, which is usually reflected in our actions. An attitude is a kind of mental container that shapes and colors whatever is put into it. Your attitude not only colors what comes into the mind, but leads you to attend to some things and be completely oblivious of others. It affects what comes into your head as well as what happens thereafter.

This slogan targets one attitude in particular: the attitude that you yourself are more important than others. The attitude that you come first and others come second. It is rather embarrassing, but crude as it may sound, most of us carry this attitude or assumption with us all the time. It is definitely our default position, and deeply ingrained.

Mind training is all about changing that fundamental stance. The practice is to make an effort to care for others as much as you care for yourself. Even more radically, it is to shift your attitude so that your concern for the welfare of others actually pops up first, rather than a distant second.

This kind of attitude adjustment seems like a pretty big deal, heroic even. But according to the slogan, it is important not to get caught up in the big-dealness. The slogans altogether have an odd way of combining radical challenges with the suggestion just to relax. There is absolutely no room for exhibitionism or spiritual posturing. Slogan practice is not focused on grand gestures. Instead, the idea is to make small but consistent moves in the direction of awareness and loving kindness. And then…get over yourself and just relax!

Today’s practice

When you notice your attitude turning inward, fixating on yourself, give it a gentle nudge and turn it outward to include other beings. Don’t punish yourself for your selfishness or give yourself a gold star for your altruism. Simply apply the slogan and move on.