The basic concept is very simple. When we say that something is a problem, it will in fact be a problem for us. When we say that it’s ok, then it will in fact be ok for us. Why is this so? Because how we react to something, our state of mind, is what controls … not the thing or situation that is being experienced.
This practice can be applied countless times throughout each day, actually throughout each hour. You would be amazed how frequently you utter a value judgment about something … the weather, a colleague, your finances, virtually everything that occupies our mind. And the words we use almost always contain a value judgment; we virtually never describe the actual elements of something in factual terms because we feel neutral about nothing. Listen to yourself carefully and you’ll see the truth of this observation.
So this becomes another very practical way of watering “good” seeds so that the roots of your true Buddha nature grow deep, and not watering the “bad” seeds so that your ego is starved and weakens.
Every time you begin to react to something by voicing your view of it as a problem or undesirable, stop. Such a statement makes that feeling more concrete and strengthens your belief in and commitment to the truth of that observation.
Luckily, since it is “just” a matter of your state of mind, you can with awareness point yourself in a different direction by either referring to the thing or situation using neutral words, or when free of the negative construct actually find something positive or spiritual to say about the thing or situation.
The adage, “If you don’t have something good to say, don’t say anything,” is a wise saying, as far as it goes. And when we are free of the intervention of our ego-mind, there is almost always something good to say, or something spiritual that opens the door to compassion and happiness.
This is another area where using imagining in your meditation (see my post, “Imagining in Meditation”) can be very helpful. Imagine situations where you habitually express disapproval, that separate you from the world around you, and then imagine how if you were free of the intervention of your ego-mind you would react in a spiritual way. And then feel the peace that comes over you, rather than the frustration that follows your habitual reaction.
When you are comfortable implementing this practice, then turn to your thoughts. The same principle applies, it’s just more difficult to be aware when something is in the thought stage than when you give something voice.
For example, I was walking down the street the other day and started having my habit-energy reaction to the buildings I saw, especially the “ugly” ones. This was all thought; nothing was voiced as I was by myself. This may sound silly to the reader, but I find it can be somewhat depressing looking at what we’ve built, especially post WWII, whether in urban or suburban areas.
But I quickly became aware of what I was doing and was reminded instead of what a monk said recently about everything we experience that pushes our buttons or disturbs us in some way being the expression of someone’s or society’s suffering. And so I looked at the “ugly” buildings and saw them as an expression of the architect’s suffering, and also society’s. Likewise, I looked at the “beautiful” buildings and saw them as an expression of the architect’s spirituality. How appropriate as “beauty” is defined, in an arts context as opposed to a beauty contest, as something that exalts the spirit.
I made no more value judgments and just saw the buildings as they were. I derived happiness both from the elements that came together to make some buildings spiritually nurturing and the knowledge that they were an expression of someone’s spirituality. And I felt sorrow that the architects that produced the non-nurturing buildings (it can be very difficult to find a word that doesn’t contain some value judgment) suffered, and indeed that this was just an extension of society’s suffering.
But that sorrow was not depressing, it wasn’t agitating, it wasn’t frustrating. I know that it’s just the way it is. The cold, impersonal, buildings were almost all post-WWII and were an example of man’s being further distanced from beauty after WWII and more oriented towards technical innovation, which is not the same as creativity, as a step on the path to the holy grail of progress.
Always water the seeds of your true Buddha nature and starve your ego-mind.