Rod Meade Sperry explores Buddhist wisdom for ditching negative habits.
I have put down some mighty habits in my time: all-day anxiousness and unskillful speech, coffee, cigarettes. (Can one “smoke like a fish”? Somehow that mixed metaphor seems to capture my previous relationship to tobacco.) When you set out to quit something, it seems impossible: not just because you’re addicted, or in a deep rut, but because your habits and compulsions can become elements of your identity. Me? Without [insert underexamined compulsion here]? That wouldn’t be me!
Or, it might be a more liberated you.
Habits and habitual patterns vex us because they feel so comfortable and familiar, even as we know that they might be harming us (or others). I feel fortunate to have stumbled my way into the dharma, because it’s so eloquently taught me another way to see things. Nothing is permanent. Not me. Not my habitual patterns of thought, and not my negative habits — and so they can be replaced, at least sometimes, with positive ones. Realizing that is the first step to that more liberated you. But then you gotta do the work.
And helping us do the work is, I’ve found, one of Buddhism’s specialties. Here are three stories on habits and habitual patterns from Lion’s Roar magazine and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly. May they get you out of a rut and into a groove.
—Rod Meade Sperry, editorial director, Lion’s Roar Special Projects & LionsRoar.com
The Alchemy of Mindfulness
Tara Bennett-Goleman describes how the transforming power of mindfulness can be applied to our painful emotional patterns.
The warmth of sunlight dissolving the moisture of clouds — nature’s alchemy — echoes the warm fire of mindfulness melting the emotional clouds covering our inner nature. The effects of such periods of insightful clarity may be fleeting and momentary, lasting only until the next emotional cloud forms. But rekindling this awareness again and again — bringing it to bear on these inner clouds, letting it penetrate and dissolve the haze in our minds — is the heart of mindfulness practice, a practice we can learn to sustain.
Be Kind to Yourself
You have enlightened nature, says Pema Khandro Rinpoche. If you truly know that, you’ll always be kind to yourself.
When people talk about daily practice, they usually mean doing silent meditation, a ritual, or mantra recitation. These are important parts of our daily practice, but there is another crucial dimension: it is being kind to our own body-mind. This is a method for connecting with our buddhanature during our daily activities.
The Beautiful Energy of Thoughts
Working with our thoughts is the greatest challenge in meditation — maybe in life. Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche tells us how we can experience them as freedom not imprisonment.
Destructive habits and careless behavior are the cause of our suffering. If we seek to live our lives fully, we should not become trapped in our routines. When a bee settles on a flower to suck its nectar, it is intoxicated by the taste. Unaware that night is descending, the bee is trapped in the flower as the petals slowly close. As human beings, we should use our intelligence and hone our awareness so that our habits do not shackle us and rob us of our freedom.