To enhance and accelerate your progress on your spiritual path, you should train and develop these five strengths and implement them into your daily life. The strengths are taken from the seven-point mind training practice, and they will help build true and lasting compassion within you.
The five strengths are strong determination, familiarization, seed of virtue, taming the ego and aspiration. It is not enough to just understand these strengths, we must also make a concerted effort to implement them into our lives.
Instead of sleep-walking through life, we should set our direction and then stick to it. Decide in this moment, this hour, this day, I will practice meditation and mindfulness. The more determined you are, over time, you will see your practice becomes longer and requires less effort. If we put in the effort, we will gain the desired result. If we are lazy, we will never get any benefit from the practice. We must do practice every day if we want to make progress. If you sharpen a knife a bit one day and a bit in a few days, the knife will never get sharp. The same goes for our practice.
By regularly practicing compassion and mindfulness, on and off the meditation cushion, it becomes familiar territory, so it’s not such a big deal anymore. Familiarization allows our practice to become ingrained within us. It stops being a project and starts being a way of life. The more we do our practice, the more familiar it becomes and the easier it feels, so make your practice a habit.
Seed of Virtue:
Generosity is a virtuous seed. When we help others, protect them, teach them Dharma, we are planting a white seed of virtue. The more white seeds we plant the more they will overpower the black unvirtuous seeds we may have previously planted. You should not hesitate to benefit others in any way you can. Every kindness is worth your while, even small ones, such as feeding small birds and animals or smiling at a stranger.
Taming the ego:
We must try and let go of our unskilful, ego-driven acts, such as greed, anger, pride, jealousy and so on. We need to understand that ego is the source of all our selfish actions and thoughts. The best way to do this is with a reflection session at the end of each day. Sit somewhere quiet and reflect back over the day. You will be able to spot these unskilful, ego-driven acts as they come back to you. You can then rehearse a better way to act, so that next time you are in the same situation you will not be driven by our ego. Compassion will naturally arise once we have tamed our ego.
Aspire to cultivate compassion for all, no matter what obstacles you come up against.
Aspiration is said to have three parts that are, in a way, reminders of the first four strengths:
1. the aspiration to serve all beings, however we encounter their need in our life.
2. the aspiration to remember to keep our mind open and our hearts warm.
3. the aspiration to apply our warm heart despite the chaos and obstacles that are all around us.
Every time you practice meditation or mindfulness, you should end by recommitting yourself to the service of others. You will not only be helping others, you will also be helping yourself.
If you pay attention to how you spend your time, you will be able to implement these five strengths into your daily routine. This means you will be determined to do your spiritual practice and become familiar with it. You will be planting virtuous seeds and taming your ego. Finally, you will have the aspiration to help all beings, no matter how small they are. This means your actions will no longer be ego-driven, but intentional and compassionate.
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