How do you deal with difficult habitual patterns? We want to hear from you.

It’s question time, and the subject is difficult thoughts, emotions, and patterns that arise in your life: What are they? How do you experience them? And how do you work with them — from habits to compulsions to feelings like worry, anxiety, and aversion? ….Let us know. You can leave your answers here (*about 200 words max, please*), or email them to magazine<at> Some answers might appear in a coming issue of Shambhala Sun, so if you do NOT want your answer and/or name published, do indicate that. Thank you.

And if you’re looking for some friendly help with challenging emotions or problems, don’t miss our special collections of teachings and articles from the Shambhala Sun: Wisdom for Difficult Times | Practices for Difficult Times.


  1. mmwelch says

    Simple shamatha practice can help with some difficult thoughts, but for truly stubborn ones, I need to figure out what's underlying them – what makes me come back to the pattern or thoughts again and again. Often it's not what I assumed: I find I've been imposing some kind of dichotomy that turns out to be off base. I've been thinking "Is X good or is X bad?" or "Am I doing X right or am I doing X wrong?" when in fact X isn't X at all, it's Y. For example, I often fret about my health, what I should be doing to manage my health conditions, and what I have to accept. I thought my challenge was to find the line between the two, but a meditation instructor asked whether I'd considered having compassion for myself. She pointed out the Y when I was focusing on the X. Once I realized I was creating suffering by overlooking the possibility of compassion, I was able to loosen my grasp on the habit of trying to control things and getting mad at myself when I can't. That's not to say that it works all the time – or that I'm going to totally neglect my health, which would be foolish – but it eases the difficult thoughts.

  2. says

    Two particular books were essential to helping me overcome my anxiety and negative thoughts, "When Things Fall Apart", by Pema Chodron and "Loving What Is", by Byron Katie. The first book introduced me to the concepts of Buddhism and gave me a framework that allowed me to work with my suffering, rather than resist it. The second book taught me a process called The Work, which helped me unravel the thoughts that caused my stress and anxiety. Through Katie's inquiry process, I was able to prove to myself that most of my stressful thoughts weren't actually true and that they were tied to my deepest fears and insecurities. As a result, my anxiety has turned out to be one of my greatest teachers. It always leads me to facing and overcoming my fears. This in turn has helped me discover that when I get rid of my fear, I am full of compassion and unconditional love. The teachings of Buddhism speak so beautifully about all of these truths and serve to reassure me that I'm on the right path in my life.

  3. Matthias Staber says

    There are two ways that I commonly use this days.

    One is a meditation instruction from the heart essence teachings that my lama reminds me off on a weekly basis, the other one is found in shri badras beautiful short lo jong text called “skyi sdugs lam ‘khyer kyi blo sbyong” or “mind training that takes happiness and suffering as the path”

    Studying and practicing with lamas here in India might be beautiful magical etc. but more often looking into the mirror of my mind I see where im.

    These days I mostly get sad and angry while doing ngondro practice and studying with Rinpoche everyday (no holidays)

    Rinpoche instruction in a nutshell: keep body and mind exactly as there are, let the 6 ayatanas in there own place. Straightforward but also hard, so formless! He said doing this yeshe (primordial wisdom) increases and rnam she (consciousness – conceptual mind) decreases – adding after couple of years approximately 7-12.

    When I dong have faith to stick with this the kashmiri panchens lo jong works too.

    Basically you take the emotion and see it as your yidam. Feeling how the texture of the negative emotion is not other then the deity itself, this can replace suffering with more subtle feelings or at least I don’t indulge in whining about my horrible life, but use he emotion for practice.