5.) Self-Reflection - Looking at one's self
6.) Wisdom - Practicing the Law of Cause and Effect
|Original Photo by taufiq hussien available on Flickr.com
On the one hand if we are overanalyzing our shortcomings too much, we may punish ourselves harshly for things that don't really matter. But on the other hand if we are overflowing with self-confidence, we may be making mistakes or harming others in ways we don't know.
Next we should concentrate on what's been troubling us as well as what's been happening to us lately.
Then it's a good idea to examine what kind of environment we are in currently. What kind of people or influences are surrounding us?
Lastly and most importantly, how are we choosing to respond to the events occurring in our lives?
There are many, many ways to approach and practice Self-reflection.
|Original Photo by Christopher Gollmar available on Flickr.com
You could go to the normal spots to check for them, but what usually happens if they are not there? Sure, you can go digging randomly around the room, but in your desperation you may forget where you've already been. Things begin to get frantic and you go around in circles.
|Original Photo by Christopher Gollmar available on Flickr.com
|Photo (Color Corrected) by Jillian, original available on Flickr.com
Self-Reflection is the virtue that encourages us to take a deeper, more serious look around what's in our mind.
Before tackling life's difficulties, are there bad habits stored somewhere within us that we don't need anymore? Have some of our positive traits been forgotten and left to collect dust in the corner of our minds?
When everything gets bad and we fly wildly out of control, life only seems to get harder for us.
Pure Land Buddhist teacher Kentetsu Takamori describes such a situation within a short poem. It is loosely translated as follows, "You kick your plate of food from its foulness in disgust, but who will clean up the mess?"
Instead of reflecting sensibly and seeing an unfortunate event clearly, we often seem to react quickly with our first impulse. Foolishly, we fail to realize the impact of our reckless choices made in haste.
It's of course good to be "in the now" as they say, but gaining from the experiences within the now and being able to put them into practice in your future is best.
|Original Photo by Bloody Marty available on Flickr.com
|Photo (color-corrected), original available on Flickr.com
The simplest advice: take a deep slow inhale using your stomach muscles. Then exhale. Repeat as needed. Of course, this can be a very challenging piece of advice to remember in a difficult time, but it is a skill that can be learned from practice and experience. When we face a crisis, it is good to maintain healthy breathing.
So we're breathing consciously, and now our immediate attention is needed toward a very troublesome event. Even if it seems we don't have much time, we can still take a brief moment for Self-Reflection.
Try taking a quick walk and getting some sunshine outdoors. We can grab a cold glass of ice water or get a healthy snack to restore our energy. Stress can rapidly deplete our body's energy levels. Another helpful idea could be laying down and resting our eyes and our mind for a few minutes. Find a quiet atmosphere.
Whatever we need takes to cool down... once we feel more centered, then we can have a better check on reality.
Self-Reflection gives us the opportunity for growth, patience, and maturity. *And the time we make for Self-Reflection will reward us with insights that guide toward wiser choices.*
By first understanding our own needs, opinions, and ideas, it makes it a whole lot easier for us how to express ourselves. Then we can stand to benefit even more from seeking the further advice and help of our family, friends or support groups.
Without a regular, moderated, and steady approach toward our own mindset, we become self-absorbed with a "me-first" attitude.
When we do a lot of internal work, we have a tendency to reach a point where we think that our journey is pretty much complete. As we are, we must have made it to being semi-perfect already. We compare our own awesomeness to what others have done with their life. That's when we'll often jump at the chance to correct or counsel others because it makes us feel and look good.
However, what other people need is encouragement, not criticism or improvement. Finding and correcting the mistakes of our own attitude and conduct should be our focus.
Don't worry so much about everyone else. Buddhism reminds us again and again, just look at yourself.
But other times when we did wrong or hurt someone, they should have corrected our errors in an assertive, yet soft way.
It is so much healthier to use positive reinforcement and avoid negative reactions as much as possible. This applies to misbehaving adults in our lives as well. Haven't you noticed the more something is forced or stressed on someone, the less likely the person will want to do it of their own good will?
The best we can do is to be consistent with our own conduct and exemplify the beneficial attributes we wish to bring out in others.
Are we being a good teacher or a bad one for others to follow? (Note: This can be really hard to spot!) Sometimes the things we despise in others the most is present in some way within us as well.
Buddhism encourages us to open our heart through Self-Reflection. The teachings guide us to not spew anger or shut down whenever we don't get our way.
We should Self-Reflect first before opening our mouths or taking action.
This level of conscience requires growing up and assuming responsibility.
Of course we should feel good about our own accomplishments, but even better, we need to take time to recognize and have gratitude toward all those people who helped us along the way in big ways or little ways. When's the last time you said, "Thank you very much," with all sincerity?
And in those times when we are at fault, we should try to correct those wrongdoings as soon as possible. We have to make the effort and apologize to those we have harmed. When's the last time you said, "I apologize for what I've done. How can I make things better?" It's tough to do this!
Self-Reflection is a huge challenge we have before us everyday to maintain a healthy balance between celebrating our strengths and improving upon our weaknesses.
It seems impossible at first. But the more we practice forgiveness and patience in adversity, the more our suffering can heal inwardly.
The Law of Cause and Effect teaches that blaming others or seeking revenge only brings more harm upon us.
Even laughing at our enemy's misfortune and calling it "their karma" is a complete misunderstanding of how Buddhism works.
|Original Word Art by BK available on Flickr.com
If our intentions are negative and spiteful toward a negative person or event, we will receive negativity in our own future. It's because what matters most is what is in our mind.
Sure we shouldn't beat ourselves up after someone else has hurt us. Of course, the other person doing wrong to us should correct their behavior. If they continue to do us direct harm, then you may want to consider distancing yourself from that person. But it is ultimately up to you to make that kind of decision to stay around or not. No one can convince you but you.
For now, just know that forcing any kind of change upon others doesn't work.
This next story from the book, Unshakable Spirit, tells us the only way is to be the change.
|Original Photo by Mary Harrsch available on Flickr.com
Let's say there is somebody who we think is really spoiled, lazy or way too selfish. We should then reflect on ourselves. Have I been spoiled, lazy or selfish ever? As soon as we find a trace of that behavior within ourselves, we are more lenient and kind to the other person and are able to maintain better harmony.
Our perception shifts entirely when we do this. We find the commonalities we have with others, rather than false notions of comparison or superiority.
Here's another example for Self-Reflection. You feel another person is too stubborn, way too conceited, and never apologizes for anything. Think of the next question.
Our pride is one of our biggest challenges, largely because it remains unseen.
But through Self-Reflection, we have the choice to reflect first and then actively project the best positive choice we want out into the world.
is very shallow. **
These days we often think that letting someone else have their way is a sign of weakness on our part. We seem to be the one who is "losing" at that moment.
Yet actually the more powerful person is the one who has the ability to overcome their selfish desire and yield to another. Giving in requires a lot more mental stamina to do than getting what you want.
Instead of declaring our own right-of-way, let's consider yielding to someone else. Kindness is thinking of others rather than always giving to the self. Think of how kinder the world would become if we all initiated this principle first.
Giving more than taking is what brings us more happiness, and Self-Reflection is what helps us see more opportunities for generosity.
The compassionate choices we learn from our Self-Reflections then make others happy as well as guide us toward the lasting happiness we want to create in our lives.
The Six Paramitas will lead us on a journey of self-discovery to see our own imperfections. Only by trying to do the most good does this become clear.
Let's think about this one for a moment.
Our first guess is to say that intentional evil is obviously the worst of the two.
But is it?
But then one time as you belly laugh too hard, you hear your own cough and are reminded of the flu. You start to feel guilty and you begin covering your mouth with a napkin. On the way home, you even pick up a surgical mask to wear so that you don't spread your infection to anymore people.
|Original Photo by Swerz available on Flickr.com
They don't even know they have a flu, so they cough and sneeze as hard as they want without covering it. They spray their saliva and phlegm everywhere into the air proudly into people's faces without a single care. They don't know about the harm they are inflicting.
|Original Photo by CDC Public Health Image
We self-reflect based on the teachings of Buddhism. It's like our check-up that guides us toward the truth. The teachings, conveyed correctly, help us gently become more aware that we have a biased way of evaluating ourselves.
Only through Self-Reflection can we know that we're in a negative or toxic mood in the first place. Once we see it, then we can adjust ourselves so we don't spread our infection and hurt others from our condition. The more we observe and learn about how contagious or toxic our actions can be, the more responsible we become by taking preventative measures.
We should refrain from committing the Ten Evils, which are taught in the sutras. Doing these negative actions will only bring us more and more misfortune.
But even vegetarians are killing other living beings. In order to grow vegetables, pesticides are used that kill insects.
** True Pure Land Buddhism teaches that eating or not eating meat is not the main issue to dwell on, but to observe deeply and continually what kind of mind we have in our daily life until we discover the purpose of life for ourselves. **
That's why it's important to always keep Self-Reflection in our heart.
|Original Photo by Esad Hajdarevic available on Flickr.com
Practice a way of Self-Reflection that works for you and keeps you happy and healthy. Meditation techniques are really nothing more than suggestions or guidelines to help you achieve and maintain a balanced, conscious approach to your life.
|Original Photo by Mutiara Karina available on Flickr.com
In the morning, get up a little bit earlier and plan your day for a few minutes sitting peacefully. Think of how you can practice kindness. What do you need to feel good, so that you can be helpful to others?
In the evening, review your whole day slowly in the evening for a few minutes. What were the highlights? What were things you could have done better?
Journal your thoughts and write down any intense feelings or the events that you are facing. Working things out on paper can sometimes give insights into your blind spots.
Form a timeline of your whole life and reconcile all the events, both happy and sad, that have happened to you along the way. Learn from the past and decide where you want to go in the future.
|Original Photo by South Africa The Good News
All people who have changed the world first strived for something greater inside themselves.
Self-reflection is all about keeping our vulnerable channels open to receive, so that we can grow from what we perceive. Without this, our progress is limited and we can't learn.
By nurturing ourselves but still maintaining an analytical perspective on our behavior, it teaches us over time and experience, both how to be more forgiving and how to move on from the mistakes others commit against us.
|Diagram (edited), original available from WikiMedia.org
Knowing who we are completely is essential in attaining absolute happiness. Without knowing who we are, we can't really be happy.
Listening well to the Dharma means putting its lessons into practice diligently. It means we must think deeply on ourselves and try to do as much good as we possibly can. Along the way, we stumble and see more and more of our flaws that remained previously invisible.
This leads us to the 6th Paramita of Wisdom, which is improving ourselves by practicing of the Law of Cause and Effect. Whereas Self-Reflection can be seen as the coming to an awareness of the best course of action, Wisdom is actually knowing how and when to implement the change.
Generosity + Discipline + Patience + Effort + Self-Reflection = Wisdom
Practicing the Law of Effect deeply is what moves us forward on the path. In the next post, we will explore the Paramita of Wisdom through an explanation of the Law of Cause and Effect of the Three Worlds.