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Lions Roar : January 2016
ADVICE FOR DIFFICULT TIMES Hey, That Was My Idea! NORMAN FISCHER on reducing self-concern while still protecting your career and morale. Question: The mind-training (lojong) slogan “Give the victory to others” is helpful in my life. But I have a colleague who’s constantly taking credit for my ideas and accomplishments at work. How do I practice the slogan and also do what’s right for my morale and career? Answer: The point of the slogan “Give the victory to others” is to reduce self-focus. Why do you want to do that? Because being too stuck on your own well-being is bad for you. It constricts your heart. First, examine your motivation: Why not let your colleague take credit for your work? Does this bother you? Why? Be honest and realistic. If the situation really is compromis- ing your morale and your career, then it is not helping you to follow this slogan as it is written. In practice it sometimes doesn’t work to take teachings literally. You have to penetrate through to the point behind the words, and be practical. In this case, the point is to reduce self-concern. For now, you are going to have to try to practice that as much as you can, even as you realistically take care of your morale and your career. When you are a Buddha, you can literally give the victory to others all the time. But not now. It won’t be easy, but you should tell your colleague to stop taking the credit because it’s bothering you and it doesn’t seem right or fair. Try to do this with a generous understanding that the behavior must come from some lack or moral blind spot and is not really his or her fault. You’ll need to know what you are going to do next if your request goes unheeded. Pay attention to the effects these encoun- ters are having on you throughout. Doing all this without losing touch with your bodhisattva commitment is the way for you to continue practicing this slogan. ♦ ©PREDRAGVUCKOVIC/ISTOCK Send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org TAKE YOUR MIND TO THE GYM You have the power to change your habitual mental patterns. The key, Norman Fischer says, is to do your reps. MOST OF US THINK of our minds, “the way we are,” our basic attitudes and reactions, as being fixed by our genetic inheritance and life experience. But con- temporary cognitive science is proving this assumption false. In fact, our minds, our character, our pat- terns of thought and emotion are much more fluid than we thought they were. Our brains are renewed through activity and reflection; they are, as scientists say, plastic. So our minds are trainable. Our basic patterns of thought and feeling can be different. This is news we are only now in the process of fully digesting. We know that if we want to develop stamina and strength in the body, we have to work at it steadily and repeat- edly over time. This is true for the mind as well—training the mind takes not only know-how and intention but also repeti- tive training over time. Spiritual practice, exactly like training in a gym, takes time and effort. Just as there are stationary bicycles, treadmills, weight machines, and other devices, so in spiri- tual practice there is prayer, meditation, ritual, study, and other techniques. Using these steadily over time, we can change our minds. We can begin to cultivate new ways of thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting, and gradually make them more and more our own. Our basic patterns over time will be different as we train our minds with intentional techniques and practices, and this will influence our relationships and our sense of ourselves and the world. Adapted from Training in Compassion, by Norman Fischer (Shambhala Publications) NORMAN FISCHER is the author of Train- ing in Compassion: Zen Teachings on the Practice of Lojong. SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2016 25 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE