I’ve been learning the hard way over the last few years while dealing with Cancer that it’s important to practice while you’re healthy and things are going well.
When things are going well, we have the time, and especially the energy to devote to meditation to develop calm-awareness and to work on investigating what the teachings mean when they say that suffering begins in a mind full of longing and attachment.
It takes a long time to unravel the ball of string that comprises our attachments. Our habits are insidious and strongly embedded in our psyche. I often say that our minds are like desk blotters and our attachments are like ink that just soaks in and spreads. The problem is that, while things are going well, we are just as happy practicing a little and indulging in our attachments the rest of the time.
All of a sudden, when we are faced with a crisis or with a serious illness or death, we reach for the prayer beads and make all sorts of promises about practicing more. However, the horse has already left the barn in most cases and so, even though we can make some progress, we would have been more able to work with what we’re now experiencing, if we had the calm-awareness, the understanding, and the skills already developed through previous study, contemplation, and practice.
So, this message is to all the younger people who have an interest in the Buddha’s teachings and practices.
Try to spend more time working on these things now – especially contemplation of how these teachings and practices apply to your daily thought, speech, and action.
Contemplating the temporariness of the world and therefore reducing longing and attachment and developing contentment and non-attachment will make it easier to accept and work with any difficult situations we may encounter and help us appreciate all the good things we have, even when things look mostly bad.
Praciticing recognizing the interdependence of things on causes and conditions helps develop patience and perseverance and help us deal with frustration and doubt when we experience it in difficult times.
Spending time contemplating the benefits that we gain from others and how our lives are so intertwined with theirs, helps us develop gratitude, loving-kindness, and compassion, which helps us deal more kindly and effectively with others at a time when we need other’s help the most.
Learning to see that illness, health, pain and pleasure, grief and joy, are all part of an ever-changing and relative world and that our own existence is beyond any one of these circumstances, helps us to maintain our balanced mind even in the midst of our own chaos.
Attaining any of these abilities depends on practicing working with our thought, speech, and action, developing calm-awareness through Shamata meditation, developing an understanding of Relative versus Ultimate existence through Insight meditation, and practicing becoming skillful with others through loving-kindness and Compassion.
There’s a lot to do and a lot of entanglements to untangle. We can all do it, but the sooner we start, the more we will have these abilities when we need them the most.
Good luck to all!!!
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The Four Reliances:
Rely on the Teachings, not just the Teacher.
Rely on the Meaning, not just the Words.
Rely on the Actual Meaning, not just the Interpretation.
Rely on the Experience, not just the Idea.
– The Buddha
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