In the beginning, regardless how strongly you respond intellectually to the teachings of the Buddha, it will have little practical impact on your daily life because the power of your ego-mind is so great, its roots go so deep inside you. You will still suffer. However, that positive intellectual response to the teaching, which is the foundation of faith, can be put to work by developing Right Attitude.
A brief word about your continuing suffering. Many Buddhists, whether newly committed or practicing for years, feel defeated or disappointed because despite their meditation they continue to suffer. Freeing yourself from suffering is not an easy matter. It takes years of disciplined practice, even with the right teaching and approach. If you approach your Buddhism in an undisciplined manner, which many Buddhists do, or if you are not applying wise teaching, you will never get far past the stage of gaining more calm in your life.
Right Attitude is my take on a Buddhist approach to your relationship with yourself and the world around you. It is a means towards implementing the Noble Eightfold Path. As such it encompasses all the key elements of the Buddha dharma.
How, the reader may well ask, does one adopt Right Attitude early in ones practice when the ego-mind still has such a powerful hold on our thoughts and the actions we take? The answer I would provide is: affirmations.
When you make the decision to walk the Buddhist path, you are making a decision to change the paradigms that have governed your life. The Buddhist path is for most people the antithesis of how they have related to themselves and the world around them. Someone may be a good person and treat others well, but even such a person has a lot of suffering and trauma inside them from their life experiences that impact the thoughts they think and the actions they take. We all deal with basic feelings of insecurity.
Recognizing the challenge of changing my life’s paradigms, I decided early on that I would recite affirmations daily as part of my meditation practice that reaffirmed my Buddhist attitude, my intention to follow the Buddha dharma. As the years progressed and my knowledge of the dharma and my experience have grown deeper, those affirmations have grown as well.
As an example … I am not saying that you should recite these affirmations, everyone should develop their own because they need to come from your understanding of the dharma … I am going to relate my affirmations to you in their entirety. Yes, it’s lengthy, but it takes me through the whole process of freeing myself from my ego-mind every morning, and I have benefited greatly from this daily focus. The other benefit is that as I recite these affirmations/mantras, if something occurred during the previous day that was not in accord with my intent, I become very aware of it and it becomes a teachable moment.
My affirmations. When I do my walking meditation (which comes before I sit), this is what I say (to myself):
Breathing in I’m aware I’m breathing in.
Breathing out I’m aware I’m breathing out.
Breathing in I’m aware that my life is exactly the way it is right now because it’s just the way it is.
Breathing out I release all desires that my life be different in any way from the way it is right now and am happy and content in the moment free of all frustration. It’s all ok.
Breathing in I’m aware that all things are impermanent and changeable.
Breathing out, I release all attachments, even to life itself, and take joy in every moment free of all frustration.
I’m aware of the suffering caused by feelings and perceptions and yet I know that they are just a product of my mind. And so I say to them, “Not me!” And in truth I know that I I will be ok regardless what life throws my way, because I have and will always return home to my unborn Buddha mind, my unwounded heart, and so be at peace and happy.
Breathing in I go deep within myself … past my thoughts, my learned experience, my ego-mind … to my true Buddha self (I see in my mind’s eye the photo of my smiling toddler). I embrace my true Buddha self, am one with it, and so return home to my heart, to my unborn Buddha mind. I turn my will and my life over to its care and so see myself and the world around me through the eyes of my true Buddha self, my unwounded heart filled with joy and positive energy and the neutrality of my senses, the equanimity of my Third Eye.
I say to my true Buddha self, “Hello, I’m coming home.” He reaches out his hand and I take it. And he leads me out of my ego-mind’s world of darkness, fear and anxiety, doubt and confusion, guilt and shame, to my true self’s world of light.
When faith and mind are not separate, and not separate are mind and faith, this is beyond all words, all thought, for here there is no yesterday, no tomorrow, to today, there is only the present moment. This is the only reality. All else is thought.
I’m aware of the emptiness of all feelings and perceptions, and say to them all, “not me!” (Then I list them, and after each say, “not me!”) Fear. Insecurity. Anxiety. Lack of faith. Doubt and confusion. Feeling unworthy of love. Frustration. Judgmental. (These are mine.)
Instead I know that my true self is my heart. And that my heart is light, love, faith, trust, compassion, humility, gratitude, joy, strength, courage and wisdom. And wisdom is going deep within and knowing that my ego-mind is not my true self. All emotions, judgments, cravings, and attachments flow from my ego-mind and so are not my true self. They weaken me and cause me suffering. And so I do not engage my feelings and perceptions and instead go deep within myself to seek guidance from my heart, my true Buddha self. I have compassion for myself and love myself unconditionally.
I’m aware of the suffering caused by attachment to feelings and perceptions, and so again I know these are not me, they are not myself, for myself would not cause me suffering, and so I say to all attachments, “not me!” Instead I let them go, do not engage them, and return home to my heart. (On the words “let them go” and “not engage” I breathe out forcefully.)
I/my true Buddha self opens my heart and embraces all aspects of my being and experience … past—all trauma; present—things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is, it’s all ok; and future—que sera sera, I know I will be ok regardless what life throws my way … and so nothing offends, all internal and external struggles cease to be. I know I have everything I need inside myself to be at peace and happy and allow nothing to disturb my peace and happiness.
I/my true Buddha self observes myself and the world around me through my heart, not my mind. Through the positive energy of my heart and the neutrality of my senses. Free of worries and concerns. Full of faith. And if the mind asserts itself, I say, no, and return to my heart.
I/my true Buddha self opens up the wellspring of loving kindness in my heart and so compassion flows outward and I am a light unto myself, my inner child, and all others.
I/my true Buddha self is present and grateful every moment of the day and takes pleasure in each passing moment.
I/my true Buddha self allows me to live life well, which is to be at peace and happy.
And so free of mental obstructions, I experience all things directly, with dispassion, free of labels, free of the intervention of my thinking mind, knowing that things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is. It’s all ok. And so my mind rests undisturbed. And when the mind rests undisturbed, nothing offends, and when nothing offends, all obstructions cease to be.
True faith pervades my mind, I know that I have everything I need inside myself to be at peace and happy, all’s self-revealing and clear without exerting power of mind.
And so at peace, I am open to receiving all that the present moment has to offer, am grateful, and find happiness in the moment.
I know that I have nothing to prove. My only purpose in life is to offer myself and others joy. I offer myself joy by taking pleasure in each passing moment, being in touch with the positive energy in my heart, releasing all desire that my life be different in any way from the way it is right now, and being aware of all the things I am grateful for.
And I know that all I need to be happy is to offer myself and others joy. To be in the company of loved ones and friends. To respect my mind. To respect my body. To be in touch with nature. And live within my means.
I am happy and content in the present and know that all will be well regardless what life throws my way because I have and will always return home to my unborn Buddha mind and be at peace and happy.
Breathing in I breathe in positive thoughts.
Breathing out I release all negativity.
Breathing in I believe in the teachings of the Buddha.
Breathing out I release all doubt.
Breathing in I believe in my own true Buddha nature.
Breathing out I release all doubt. I have faith in myself.
Lord, grant me the serenity to understand the things I cannot change, which is how I relate to myself and the world around me, and the serenity to just be, to release all desires that my life be different in any way from the way it is right now. And the courage to change the things I can, which is how I relate to myself and others … the thoughts I think, the words I speak, and the actions I take. And the wisdom to know the difference.