I love those crazy articles you get in magazines that start, ‘Ten ways to …’. You get similar lists on FaceBook. So here are four ways to develop your spiritual practice based on the teaching in the Tibetan Lojong and pretty whacky they are if you haven’t worked with them before and seen how they work.
1. Practice random acts of kindness
Oh yes you say, 'I’ve heard that one before.' But can you do it without rewarding yourself or, worse, hoping that the recipient acknowledges your charitable act. All the time that we are thinking how good our kindnesses or compassionate acts are we are completely undermining any point in them. They will not help the other person and they certainly will not help us. There is a wonderful game called 'You be needy and I will help.' and it has a partner called, 'I'll be needy and you help me.' and what fun they are. We can easily go on inventing the roles and variations on the roles and be surprised when entirely new versions emerge from nowhere. So where does real compassion spring from? Certainly not from the intellect. It is all too easy to analyse a situation or person, decide what they need and then offer it. The other person may well be helped but you have not been. From the emotions then? You see a person suffering, you empathise and feel their suffering and then you reach out and help. This can seem so beautiful and the other person may benefit but you are playing the 'You be Needy and I will help' game which is ultimately demeaning to both of you. These and many other springs of action all suffer from the underlying game of 'You and Me' and somehow you have to get past that. Only as 'Me' gets left behind, abandoned, dropped. Does the 'You and Me' distinction go and true compassion and kindness occur. And in trying to find that lies the practice.
2. Stop Carrying Evil Deeds
Parts of you are messy, you don't like them, parts of you scare you, you try to hide from them. Some situations are confusing or threatening. You try everything to avoid them; To make sure they don't happen. Embrace them, they are your friend. These are the very things that are keeping you from the wisdom you really are. It is not easy, indeed it is very hard to sit with such things, it is the last thing you want to do but it is powerful medicine. Perhaps you will be blown away by them. Perhaps the whirlwind has to tear down every thing that you are holding on to; every defence that you have. Perhaps what you most fear is going to have to happen. 'If I stop struggling I will go mad', is what you think in these situations but madness and breakdown, violence, depression and anger are only the ultimate defences against those sides of ourselves we do not want to own. Once the fight stops, once acceptance occurs, all the things that we wanted to do in reaction to this terrible thing fall away, we see how self protective we were being, how compulsive our behaviour was. and evil deeds are naturally transformed into compassionate action and become part of what is; and so we see that we are the Being behind being.
3. Value your insecurities
Elvis sang, 'Did you ever have one of those days boys, did you ever have one of those days.' And they do come; those days or moments when life overwhelms you, your confidence goes and all you want to do is crawl back to bed. I'm talking about those days or moments when all those emotions that you most hate come in like a flood tide and you have to take avoidance action. And what action- you go to endless panicky lengths to avoid that situation or person; Or maybe you like to get your retaliation in first and make sure the dreaded situation never actually arises. And for many people worst of all- the gut wrenching arising of self loathing, self pity or total embarrassment. Well these can be your golden moments if grasped like the proverbial nettle. If you can see that the neurotic energy is just an arising energy, it has no substance, only your ego will be hurt by it, then there is a moment of chance to step out of the game and into Being. Oh dear! You missed it! Don't beat yourself up- there will be lots more chances!
4. We are protected by our Hearts Desire
Our first three practices seem to be about rooting in the muck heap, about working with the things we find most unpleasant and indeed these can be powerful practices but there is a special reason for this. Our enlightened self, our authentic real Being only wants us to become awake to what we really are. Our hearts desire is to be open, free and enlightened and this is not going to be expedited by any amount of comfortable, ego confirming practices. It is only in the fire of the uncomfortable, ego threatening places that there is any real chance of our ego being more than just threatened but actually totally undermined. So what you thought were your weaknesses are actually your real strength when you can follow your Heart's desire. There is our protection and we should honour our so called 'weaknesses'.