Selfie Culture

Image result for selfieWhy is it so much more interesting to look at pictures of ourselves than others? Come on, you know it’s true: how many times have you browsed rather apathetically through Facebook posts and then suddenly sat up and paid attention because that photo has meeeee in it? ‘Oh look, there I am: the most important person in the universe!’

This culture of placing the self first, while deeply instinctive, is also deeply damaging. Our greatest happiness is to be found through our love and compassion for others; Geshe Kelsang calls our love for others ‘an inexhaustible fountain of happiness within our own hearts.’ So our self-concern is actively preventing our happiness by diverting all our attention away from others.

Image result for selfie cartoonWe need to check the truth of this within our own experience: it isn’t hard to do. Say if you have some minor pain, observe how you feel if you focus all your attention on yourself. In all likelihood, that minor suffering will become exaggerated and take up all your awareness. Then observe how you feel if you have that same pain but turn your attention to others; just something as simple as making someone else a cup of tea takes your mind off your pain and therefore lessens it. Taking our focus away from self and onto other always makes us feel better; our problems take up less space in our mind, so of course they feel smaller.

I think this is the single most practical truth we can ever learn. I’m feeling inspired about this at the moment because it is working pretty well to distract me from my pain! I had a tooth extracted this morning, which I was rather nervous about, so I made a big effort to transform it through the practice of taking, whereby I imagined that my pain was actually functioning to relieve the suffering of others. I visualized everyone else’s suffering dissolving into me, and believed that it was all being purified by my present experience of pain; it really worked to keep my mind peaceful.

So far at least… now I just have to keep it up for the next few days until the swelling goes down… and then for the rest of my life, of course. Wish me luck!

More: The Joy of Unconditional Love free talks


Learning to like yourself

Universum by INDRIKoffWe usually spend quite a bit of time worrying about whether other people like us, but it’s really much more important to like ourselves. Do you feel comfortable in your own skin? Do you even know how you feel, really?

We need to feel happy with ourselves if we’re to make authentic spiritual progress. Otherwise, it’s very easy to misinterpret some of the teachings and end up undermining ourselves. For example, we need to be constantly pushing ourselves to improve our good qualities: but we need to do so in an encouraging way, not by beating ourselves up about how badly we’re doing. To get the right balance, we have to be relating to our potential.

We all have the potential to become a Buddha, completely free from faults. Of course, at present we are full of delusions and bad habits – but we have to have confidence that that will change. We can like ourself despite our present imperfections because we know they are just temporary characteristics, not part of our real nature.

To make authentic spiritual progress we need to develop confidence in our spiritual potential, and to acknowledge and improve our good qualities. However, we also need a keen and realistic awareness of our present faults and imperfections. If we are honest with ourself we shall recognize that at the moment our mind is filled with defilements such as anger, attachment, and ignorance. These mental diseases will not go away just by our pretending they do not exist. The only way we can ever get rid of them is by honestly acknowledging their existence and then making the effort to eliminate them…

Although we need to be acutely aware of our faults we must never allow ourself to become overwhelmed or discouraged by them. We may have a lot of anger in our mind but this does not mean that we are an inherently angry person. No matter how many delusions we may have or how strong they are, they are not an essential part of our mind. They are defilements that temporarily pollute our mind but do not sully its pure, essential nature. They are like mud that dirties water but never becomes an intrinsic part of it. Just as mud can always be removed to reveal pure, clear water, so delusions can be removed to reveal the natural purity and clarity of our mind. While acknowledging that we have delusions we should not identify with them, thinking `I am a selfish, worthless person’ or `I am an angry person.’ Instead we should identify with our pure potential and develop the wisdom and courage to overcome our delusions.

~ How To Transform Your Life

Image result for floating on still waterThis perspective is even more important when it comes to the teachings on abandoning self-cherishing. We should be training by thinking about ourselves less, not by thinking less of ourselves. We are not giving up self-cherishing because we don’t care about ourselves: we’re doing it because it will make us happy. If the practice is making us feel self-judgemental or useless, then we’re doing it wrong; stop, take a step back, and ask ‘How am I feeling about myself right now?’

We might also ask, `If I had no self-cherishing, would that not mean that I dislike myself? Surely it is necessary to accept and love myself, for if I cannot love myself how can I love others?’ This is an important point. In Training the Mind in Seven Points Geshe Chekhawa explains a number of commitments of training the mind, which serve as guidelines for Lojong practitioners. The first of these states: `Do not allow your practice of training the mind to cause inappropriate behaviour.’ This commitment advises Lojong practitioners to be happy with themselves. If we are excessively self-critical we shall turn in upon ourself and become discouraged, and this will make it very difficult for us to turn our mind to cherishing others. Although it is necessary to be aware of our faults, we should not hate ourself for them. Abandoning self-cherishing completely is not easy and will take a long time. If we are not happy with ourself, or foolishly neglect our own well-being, we shall have neither the confidence nor the energy to effect such a radical spiritual transformation.

~ How To Transform Your Life

So, take the time to connect with your pure nature, your inner potential; meditate on the clarity of the mind and tell yourself ‘This is who I really am.’

Take this further: Learning to like yourself half-day course  |  Buddha thinks I’m awesome

Just a little problem

elephant scared of mouse

Why are we scared of something so insignificant?

A friend said to me today, ‘Self-cherishing is just a little problem.’ I gaped at her in amazement, thinking, ‘My self-cherishing is pretty huge, actually!’ But then I let myself accept her view. Self-cherishing is a small problem; it’s only our self-cherishing that makes us think it’s so large.

Let me explain: self-cherishing is our ordinary view that sees ourselves as important and neglects the happiness of others. Geshe-la says that we have never had a single moment of our lives without this mistaken view, and for us, it is almost as natural as breathing. That sounds pretty big, right? But only because we are thinking about ourselves.

When we occupy the centre of our thoughts, self-cherishing seems like an insurmountable problem, because when we are focused on ourself we are feeding into our self-cherishing. As soon as we stop thinking about ourselves and focus on others, self-cherishing is reduced to a little problem: it’s just one mistaken thought in the mind of just one person.

Image result for eight steps to happinessIt really is that simple: move the focus of your attention to other people, and the problem disappears. That only seems difficult from the point of view of our delusions; stop letting our self-cherishing tell us how hard it is and just get on with it.

Whatever you’re doing, just ask yourself, ‘Who am I doing this for?’ If you are eating, stop eating for yourself and start eating in order to nourish your body to give you the energy to help others. When you wash, instead of being concerned with prettying yourself up, think ‘I’m cleaning myself so I don’t upset others by smelling!’ If we just keep forgetting about ourselves in a virtuous way, we stop letting self-cherishing puff itself up into something huge. It’s like we’ve taken our head out of the stormcloud and can see the vast space of the sky-like mind, because our mind has expanded to fit in our concern for all living beings.

Image result for eight steps to happinessKISS. No, don’t kiss everyone: that may be taking cherishing others a step too far! Keep It Simple, Stupid. I really think that Dharma practice could be simple if we let it. Even profound teachings like emptiness are in fact simple – it’s our minds that are complicated, we obscure the simplicity. Buddha said we become ‘exhausted by our elaborations’ – eventually, we get so tired of making things difficult for ourselves that we actually start to practice cherishing others!

The path to enlightenment is really very simple – all we need to do is stop cherishing ourself and learn to cherish others. All other spiritual realisations will naturally follow from this.

Eight Steps to Happiness

Take it further: Universal Compassion