Recognizing the disturbing attitudes
In order to recognize the disturbing attitudes when they devi-ously appear in our minds, we need mindfulness and introspective alertness. Once we’ve made the determination to act, speak and think in beneficial ways, mindfulness prevents us from getting distracted. Introspective alertness makes us aware of what we are doing, saying and thinking, and if it notices a disturbing attitude, it alerts us to the danger. The Kadampa Buddhist tradition in Tibet recommends:
When sitting alone, watch your mind.
When in public, watch your speech.
Because our lives are busy, we’re often unaware of what is going on inside us. We’re preoccupied with going here and there, doing this and planning that. After a while we feel we don’t know ourselves very well, since our attention is always directed outwards. To remedy this, it’s important to have some “quiet time” each day, time to relax and be alone. We can read some helpful literature, or just sit and reflect. It’s good to review what has happened each day: what we did and why, what others said and did and how we reacted, what we thought and felt that was expressed and unexpressed.
This quiet time gives us the opportunity to “digest” what we experience, to be aware of what we thought and felt. We may observe that we were sympathetic to someone’s difficulty; we may discover that we didn’t get upset in a situation that would generally have disturbed us. We’ll see progress in our cultivation of positive mindstates and will rejoice and congratulate ourselves-without getting proud of course!
On the other hand, we may notice an uncomfortable feeling and ask ourselves, “Was I angry then? Was I jealous? Attached? Proud? Closed-minded?” Being honest with ourselves, we’ll be willing to admit when we had unrealistic or harmful attitudes. There’s no need to judge ourselves for having them. They are simply there. We’re ordinary beings, so naturally destructive emotions sometimes arise. There’s no reason to feel guilty about them, nor should we ignore them.
To resolve these uncomfortable emotions, we can practice the techniques explained in the preceding chapters. For example, we may notice that our interpretation of a situation was narrow, causing us to become angry. If we examine closely, we can pinpoint the falsity of that projection. We’ll then try to see the situation from a more realistic and kind viewpoint. In this way, we’ll let go of the uncomfortable emotion. Afterwards, we can determine to be more mindful in the future, so that we won’t physically and verbally act upon such disturbing attitudes.
Over a period of time, we’ll notice that one of the disturbing attitudes occurs more frequently in us than the others. This is the one to be especially aware of in our daily lives. During our quiet time each day, we can gradually train ourselves in a more open and compassionate perspective. Thus, our benefIcial outlooks will become more habitual, and situations will begin to appear differently to us. Then, when similar events arise during the day, we’ll have a better chance of catching the false projections and disturbing attitudes before they take charge of us.
By gradually freeing ourselves from wrong conceptions and transforming our mental outlook, we’ll enjoy life much more and will be of more benefit to others. In this way, our lives can become very meaningful.