Mental Medicine: Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions
Weekly Insights from Meditation Classes You May Have Missed
Our Thursday class series is focusing on “The Clarity of the Mind,” which began the first week of 2017. In the tradition of a New Year’s resolution, we are investigating how can we have a mind free of attachment, anger, jealousy for this year. Now that we have reached mid-February - Valentine's Day and the usual 6-week slump in starting a new habit - it’s the perfect time to discuss the confidence to change.
We all want to be better; and we all know deep inside each one of us exists a kind, amazing person just waiting to burst out. However, as we age, we often become cynical and lose that cosmic view that we can change the world. While trying to change ourselves, we come up against this person who feels fixed and limited because we often remember our past, failed attempts to lose that weight, start that meditation practice, or finish writing that book. As a result, people often and mistakenly connect the desire to change with failure. This creates an inner dialogue: ‘I want to change. I can’t change. I don’t change.’ Then we relate to ourself as fixed and unable to transform into the person we long to be.
Real change - transformation - needs to happen authentically. In Buddhism, change is not a shift or a little sweetener. It’s enlightenment. Yes, this is the enlightenment training center of Williamsburg, Brooklyn brought to you by this week’s Mental Medicine.
In all seriousness, how does this training begin? It starts by understanding that there is no 'real', fixed you. That limited, unchangeable person is just an idea. What you think you are is just that - what you are. If you think and believe you are fixed, then that's what you get. Understanding that we create ourself with our thoughts, we can gradually create the person we want to be - someone who is free of anger, jealousy, attachment, fear, and other “delusions”. We see for ourself that there is nothing (other than incorrectly thinking we can't) that can hold us back from bringing about the change we want.
When people are new to meditation, they can often doubt they can benefit from it, let alone change whatever it is that bothers them or holds them back. It’s a dirty little secret people often hold. Where do all these thoughts and ideas come from? From the mind. It starts and ends with you. We work so hard to change ourselves, which makes it worse because behind that need to “work hard” is a belief that change is impossible. We set out to 'change' a fixed, limited, stuck person. Sound exhausting? We need to get out of our own way. We all have delusions, but no person is intrinsically deluded. With meditation, the delusions gradually decrease and our good qualities increase. Directly experiencing for ourself this decrease in our negative habits of mind and the increase of our good qualities increases faith i.e. self confidence. We begin to see the true potential in ourself and others and to view our life as infinitely workable.
Lacking faith in our pure nature, we often set out to change in a way that creates a goal too big to be achieved too quickly. In other words, we set the bar too high. This is known in the trade as 'self-sabotage'. As a result of setting the bar to high we fail and prove to ourselves we cannot change. We think, "See, I tried and I failed. I really am the failure I believe myself to be." Then, we just distract ourselves from the upset (insert binge watching, social media, drinking, eating, etc), set a new goal that is too high, and the vicious cycle continues. In reality, failure is just an affirmation to pivot, not to stop.
Don’t set the bar too high! Otherwise failure will bring you down to affirm your loserdome. It’s unproductive; there is zero value to be gained from that line of thinking. Instead, develop faith in your pure nature, your potential for change and that naturally creates a “mind of delight” or a mind of effort.
Because this is just a summary, there is simply not enough room here to discuss this profound topic at length. For more info please refer to Joyful Path of Good Fortune. Yet to briefly summarize, developing the confidence to change consists of four main states of mind:
Aspiration: A little bit of change indicates the potential for more change. If you can change a little, then you can change a little bit more and more. This understanding gives us spiritual energy, the energy of of aspiration. Change is possible! You can become the person you long to be.
Steadfastness: Holding this aspiration in mind, we maintain continual effort with small goals over time. (There’s no room for intensity, pushing and grasping at results in our spiritual practice.)
Joy: Having a peaceful, joyful mind will allow you to complete your tasks effortlessly and quickly. The more joyful you are, the more effective you will be.
Relaxation: Resting, taking a break to support and protect your effort.
A great example of this is a friend who started her meditation practice by beginning with just one minute per day. She set the bar low ... very skillful! She set her phone alarm for one minute - a very exact, yet short amount of time. A year later, she's now meditating 20 minutes per day!
Meditation for this Week
Thinking you can't change isn't the problem; the problem is you believe it's true. In order to bring about authentic change, connect to your pure nature through focusing on your breath. Meditate on your breath until distractions subside and your mind becomes calm, still and peaceful. Then within that space of peace ask yourself, “Who do I want to be? A more loving person. A more peaceful person. A more patient person.” Recognize you already have a little bit of love (peace, patience etc) in your heart and all you need to do is cultivate it everyday. If you can love one person then you can love two people. Why not 10 people? Then 100 and so on. As your love grows your confidence to become more and more loving increases exponentially. You are now developing the confidence to change! You can’t change your habits overnight; continue to create both a state of mind and a process that allows you to enjoy the experience rather than fixating on the results. This approach will allow you to move forward with steady, joyful progress.
The Unmistaken Dharma
What Geshe la says. . .
“If we overexert ourself and develop over enthusiastic ideas about our progress, we shall exhaust ourself and, having failed to attain great results, we shall become discouraged and may even decide to abandon our practice. This kind of effort is foolish and damaging because it leads to a reaction that is worse than having no effort at all. It makes us inert and depressed. . .Therefore we need to be very skilful and apply effort that is firm, stable, and continuous. It is far better to apply a small amount of effort continuously than a huge amount for a couple of days.” - Joyful Path of Good Fortune
Send Us Your Story & No-Selfie
Ashley W. began attending Mediation Williamsburg in the summer of 2015. “I could write a four page letter on my love of meditation! But to be brief, the decisive wisdom in these teachings has shown me how to weed out the limited, obtuse, nonsensical versions of myself that are completely purposeless. The hot mess that walked into her first class a year and a half ago has ceased to exist and a happy, loving, unruffled self continues to emerge a bit more each day. This practice gives the confidence to identify with your true potential and make lasting change. Meditating with the folks in Williamsburg and helping each other connect to our hearts is what I look forward to most each week.”
Ashley volunteers to check in students at the front desk. Say hi the next time you’re in class!
Party Like It’s 1999
Download Your Dose of Dharma Screensaver
Yes, it’s old school, but you’ll absolutely love it. Click here to take your pick of downloadable screensavers for your laptop or tablet to start your day with a dose of Dharma. Plus, it’ll be the kick in the pants to clean up your desktop so you can see it. Who doesn’t like to double dip, especially when improving your spiritual self?
Sharegraphic of the Week
Share the Dharma in Your Newsfeed
Click here to share this pearl of wisdom from Geshe la on Facebook. It’s positive Karma you’ll be sending to your friends, their friends, and who knows how far it’ll go - as well as come back to you. Prostrations!
Special Events & Updates at the Center
Get your Dharma on and Come to Class!
NOTE: Please arrive 10-15 minutes early to check in and get settled. We unfortunately cannot accommodate late arrivals because our volunteer receptionists participate in the class. The directions are below.
Sunday - Journey to Lasting Happiness
11:00 AM - 12:30PM
Wednesday - Freedom from Anxiety
8:00 PM - 9:30PM
Thursday - Clarity of the Mind
8:00 PM - 9:30PM
New class series will be added to the schedule in the coming weeks and months.
Directions to the Center
119 North 11th Street (between Bedford & Berry Streets)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn (The map is below.)
Unit 1 C / Ring Buzzer for Kadampa Meditation Center Williamsburg Branch
By Train: L / Bedford Ave or the G / Metropolitan
By Bus: M7, M15, B37, B43, B44, B52, B60, B62
Street parking if traveling by car.