Even the knowledge of and focus on these three elements is helpful as one is walking the path. It’s all incremental.
But how do you make the jump from partial realization to full realization? Almost all of my posts, reflecting my work over the past years, goes to that point, of deepening my practice.
Both for myself and as a teaching tool, I thought it would be helpful to simplify matters. I’ve written so much, as have others, that it’s easy to get lost in all the verbiage, all the different complications that arise when trying to implement your practice in the face of your ego-mind and the world you interact with. I’ve done this before in my posts, “The End of Suffering Cheat Sheet” and “12 Steps on the Buddhist Path.”
But even those are both quite complex although compact. And so I have now boiled down my daily practice and meditation to three steps, each of which I’ve written about in various posts but have brought them all together now. I have found that these steps are making a major difference in the quality of my days. I am more consistently at peace and happy and experience joy.
The first step is to go to my heart every morning. I sit with my heart, my smiling toddler, and feel its love, light, faith, trust, compassion, humility, gratefulness, joy, contentment, strength, courage, and wisdom. I bask in that glow and know that my unwounded heart is my true self, not my ego-mind. The emotions, judgments, cravings, and attachments that flow from my ego-mind and the darkness that it creates are not my true self. They are just a product of my mind.
And so the second step is to allow my heart to open up and embrace all aspects of my being and experience … every last element. Past, present, and future. I take in a deep breath and feel my heart expand, embracing everything. And so nothing offends and all internal and external struggle ceases. When I am in that state, I know that I have everything I need inside myself to be at peace and happy and allow nothing to interfere with my peace and happiness.
The third step is to greet myself and the world around me with a smile, to say “hello” in my mind to everyone and everything I encounter. It starts with me looking in the mirror first thing and smiling and saying to my mirror-image, “Good morning. I love you.” And when I smile I feel that it is my heart, my smiling toddler that is smiling, and I am now seeing things through the eyes of my true self.
As I go through each day, the world I encounter and my ego-mind present countless occasions that require me to be aware and repeat these steps. Each of these occasions my seem quite small, and yet being disciplined about my practice makes the difference between my being at peace and happy, experiencing joy, or being weighed down by the “background noise” of my ego-mind.
So for example, yesterday I was having coffee in a nearby town. The immediate built environment is old and has character, well-maintained, there is little traffic, and it’s quiet. All things I respond to positively. But my ego-mind saw the place as dead, few people on the streets. I know it could be so much more; the way it used to be before the car moved all the shopping out to suburban malls. I could go on and on.
And so I was bored and couldn’t wait to leave the place. But then I suddenly became aware of what my ego-mind was doing and stopped. I opened my heart to embrace my surroundings and turned my face into a smile. Instantaneously my mood changed. I felt relaxed. I was aware of the peace and beauty of the place . I was aware of the sky and the trees. I had no desire to leave.
The reader may respond that that’s all well and good when faced with negativity that’s rather innocuous. But what about when one encounters something that actually can cause hurt?
Ah, how are we defining hurt? Unless you’re talking about physical hurt or mental abuse … in which case you clearly do what you can to avoid being hurt, taking yourself out of harm’s way, … every other type of hurt and the resulting pain are a product of the mind. Even in the case of physical hurt or mental abuse, the hurt is one thing; it is real. But the pain we suffer because of our ego-mind’s reactions to that hurt are just a product of the mind.
And so my response to the question is that, with the exception of physical hurt or mental abuse, following these steps … going to the heart, embracing your experience, and facing it with a smile … will turn every situation from a negative to a positive. From a situation that has the potential to cause either minor or major suffering into one where you will be able to find beauty or happiness, you will know that things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is, and you will remain at peace. And so when you walk away from the situation it will have no emotional after-effect on you.
This is not to say that you won’t walk away feeling, unemotionally, that something needs to be done to change the situation you encountered or keep such things from happening in the future. But you will not obsess on this observation (unless you allow yourself to). And so you will not feel frustrated and will not suffer.
I encourage you to try these three steps in your morning meditation and implement them throughout the day. See what a difference it makes in the quality of your life.