Transforming the mind – from anger to compassion
The mind, or an individual's stream of consciousness, can become polluted by ignorance, attachment and aversion. The effect of these negative thoughts is to create negative behaviours (or bad actions),which result in suffering, pain, illness, and depression.
Negative thoughts are not a permanent part of the mind. They may be released to free a person from suffering. To transform one's mind into a lens of positivity, one must practice compassion and meditation, then happiness and enlightenment may be reached.
This is the basic teaching of Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama.In this article, I would like to reflect upon some of teachings, from "The Transformed Mind" by the Dalai Lama.
Life is short. We will die, and when we do, all that we have worked for– if it is power, position and possessions– will only hinder our chances of reaching enlightenment (or heaven). Thus it is important to strive for meaningful goals in this life. To achieve happiness or enlightenment, one must examine one's inner life. You need to ask yourself, are you happy with the way you live your life? Is it satisfying and fulfilling? Deep introspection can help you stay true to yourself.
Mental training is critical for good health. Without inner mental stability, one cannot be happy, calm or at peace. One cannot meditate on enlightenment. To train your mind, first analyse it. What triggers your anger? Why? A thorough investigation of one's past experiences and daily practice can help lay the grounds for change and improvement. And liberation!
The mind is a filter which determines how we experience this existence. When an event occurs, it is the mind, based on conditioning that perceives the event as good or bad and then selects an emotion to go with it.
An example might make the topic clearer. If someone bumps into us, our mind may perceive the action as an antagonistic push, because of an imprint of a past situation, and then feel anger and attach an unpleasant label to the person. Thus, our mind creates anger and the object of anger, but perhaps we could have chosen to perceive the push as an accident. We could have interpreted in a different light. The enemy is actually a product of our own mind.
The main cause of anger is negative imprints from past anger that resides in our mental consciousness. Patience can help us label negative experiences positively. Patience generates a positive, peaceful, healthy mind. A person dissatisfied and full of anger can become positive by generating patience. Patience offers the best spiritual development.
Another concept we may meditate upon is interdependence. We can become aware of how our lives are intermingled and interdependent on all others. This will help us shed our ego and promote loving kindness and compassion for others. This widens our world-view and reduces our anger. Breathing techniques are a powerful way to deal with the energy of anger.
Citing another example, if we experience sudden, intense anger, we can distract ourselves. Concentrate on breathing. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale love. Exhale compassion. This helps us cool down and minimise or release the object of anger which is causing negative thoughts in our mind. Those who make us angry are actually a blessing because they give us a chance to practice patience and loving kindness! And practice leads to perfection!
Through mind training, one can shape one's attitude. One becomes calmer, more at peace, able to handle stress, happier and more open minded. Unfortunately schools now focus on teaching facts not critical life skills such as mind training. The media generates more trouble by promoting a consumerist world-view that promotes the benefits of a select few while depriving millions of people of their basic rights. However, once we are aware of these competing factors, we can begin to guide our minds to a space that is more open and full of possibilities.
Our only enemy is our own mind and though self-discipline is difficult, it must be developed if we hope to achieve happiness.Meditation and yoga are practices that cleanse the mind. The goal of life is not to harm others, but to benefit others, to make life useful, free from problems, to create greater happiness for others and strive towards enlightenment.
By Shazia Omar
Photo credit: William Dalrymple
Shazia Omar teaches yoga at Studio 107. For more information about her classes, please email [email protected]. www.shaziaomar.com