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Lions Roar : March 2013
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 43 avoid it—the things we say and do, the subtle ways in which our very bodies recoil and clench when some- one says or does something to us that we don’t like. To practice patience is to notice these things and be fiercely present with them (taking a breath helps; returning to mindfulness of the body helps) rather than reacting to them. We catch ourselves running away and we reverse course, turning toward our afflic- tive emotions, understanding that they are natural in these circumstances—and that avoiding them won’t work. We forestall our flailing around with these emo- tions and instead allow them to be present with dig- nity. We forgive ourselves for having them, we forgive (at least provisionally) whoever we might be blaming for our difficulties, and with that spontaneous forgive- ness comes a feeling of relief and even gratitude. This may strike you as a bit far-fetched, but it is not. Yet it does take training. We are not, after all, talking about miracles; we are not talking about affirmations or wishful thinking. We are talking about training the mind. If you were to meditate daily, bringing up this slogan, Turn all mishaps into the path, in your sitting, writing it down, repeating it many times a day, then you could see that a change of heart and mind can take place in just the way I am describing. The way you spontane- ously react in times of trouble is not fixed. Your mind, your heart, can be trained. Once you have a single expe- rience of reacting differently, you will be encouraged, and next time it is more likely that you will take yourself in hand. When something difficult happens, you will train yourself to stop saying, “Damn! Why did this have to happen?” and begin saying, “Yes, of course, this is how it is. Let me turn toward it, let me practice with it, let me go beyond entanglement to gratitude.” Because you will have realized that because you are alive and not dead, because you have a human body and not some other kind of a body, because the world is a physical world and not an ethereal world, and because all of us together as people are the way we are, bad things are going to happen. It’s the most natural, the most nor- mal, the most inevitable thing in the world. It is not a mistake, and it isn’t anyone’s fault. And we can make use of it to drive our gratitude and our compassion deeper. 2. Drive All Blames Into One The second slogan on transforming difficult circum- stances is famous: Drive all blames into one. It, too, is quite counterintuitive, quite upside down. What it is saying is: whatever happens, don’t ever blame anyone or anything else; always blame only yourself. This is tricky, because it is not exactly blaming our- selves in the ordinary sense. We know perfectly well how to blame ourselves. We’ve been doing it all of our lives. We don’t need Buddhist slogans to tell us to do this. But clearly this is not what is meant. Drive all blames into one means that you can’t blame anyone for what happens. Even if it’s actually some- one’s fault, you really can’t blame them. Something happened, and since it did, there is nothing else to be done but to make use of it. Everything that happens, disastrous as it may be and no matter whose fault it is, has a potential benefit, and it’s your job to find it. Drive all blames into one means that you take full responsibility for everything that arises in your life. This is very bad, this is not what I wanted, this brings many attendant problems. But what am I going to do with it? What can I learn from it? How can I make use of it for the path? These are the questions to ask, and answer- ing them is entirely up to you. Furthermore, you can answer them; you do have the strength and the capacity. Drive all blames into one is a tremendous practice of cut- ting through the long human habit of complaining and whining, and finding on the other side of it the strength to turn every situation into the path. Here you are. This is it. There is no place else to go but forward into the next moment. Repeat the slogan as many times as you have to. 3. Be Grateful to Everyone Be grateful to everyone: this is very simple but very profound. My wife and I have a grandson. We went to visit him when he was about six weeks old. He couldn’t do anything, not even hold up his head, much less feed himself. If he was in trouble, he couldn’t ask for help. Unable to do anything on his own, he was completely dependent on his mother’s care and constant atten- tion. She fed him, cuddled him, tried to understand and anticipate his needs, and took care of everything, including his peeing and pooping. We were all at one time precisely in this situation, and someone or other must have cared for us in this same comprehensive way. Without one hundred per- cent total care from someone else, or maybe several others, we would not be here. This is certainly grounds for gratitude to others.