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Lions Roar : September 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2010 66 I t is well and good to feel blissfully at ease while practicing in the serene atmosphere of the meditation hall. it is quite another thing to confront the goutweed in the garden in the spring. if you are not familiar with this scourge, suffice it to say that if someone asked me to use the words “garden” and “devil” in a sentence, i would immediately say: “goutweed is the devil of the garden.” as i scowl at the goutweed flourishing in my backyard, i con- template a saying that keeps me company these days: Be grateful to everyone. this is one of the fifty-nine ancient lojong slogans or apho- risms, which can help us cultivate compassion. these instructions for training the mind, popularized in the west by Chögyam trungpa and Pema Chödrön, are powerful tools for meditation in action— how we practice as we go about our daily lives. Be grateful to everyone. why? Because the irritation, confu- sion, negativity, and general difficulties that they provide us are helpful. they point out that we need to work on ourselves. if we weren’t irritated or confused or hurt by situations in life, we might not discover meditation at all. when we begin to practice mindfulness, we recognize the confusion and neurosis in our own minds, as well as recognizing our own sanity. so we should be thankful for the difficulties, which encourage us to meditate and to look more deeply into ourselves. although it’s helpful to contemplate problems on the cushion, we also have to work with them as they come up in daily life. atisha, an eleventh-century indian Buddhist master who taught this system of mind training, took an irritating servant, a Bengali tea boy, with him when he visited tibet. He had heard that the tibetans were very kind and gentle people and so he thought they wouldn’t provide him with enough hassles. later, however, he realized it hadn’t been necessary to bring the tea boy along. the tibetans, like all people, provided plenty of annoyances— plenty of opportunities to express his gratitude. we should be especially grateful to those people and things that present the biggest obstacles, because they also present the greatest opportunities to let go. this approach may sound prom- ising, but do we really embrace it? People frequently begin the practice of sitting meditation with the attitude that they are going to solve a problem. we approach problems in our everyday lives like this as well. we— or it—are going to get better. we are going to change the things we don’t like about ourselves or change what we don’t like in the world outside. we diet, we exercise, we study. we buy clothes, houses, cars, get makeovers, and go on vacations to make ourselves feel better and more alive. we also use a lot of magic bullets, or prescription drugs, to deal with problems. we take pills not just to treat problems in our bodies but also to ad- dress problems in our minds. we begin to think that meditation Be Grateful to Goutweed