Within patient acceptance — now that we have given ourselves the space to see what is happening in our minds – we can then do something productive, such as stopping inappropriate attention and applying the opponents to delusions. A real hero or heroine is someone who does this, who courageously faces the actual enemies, not blaming it all on everybody else.
If we train in patient acceptance all the time, it will become second nature. Then our mind will be as strong as a blacksmith’s anvil – no matter how hard it is hit, we stay totally fine. Courageous, even.
Migrating to new lands
I was watching a documentary called Exodus last night on the good old BBC iPlayer in the soggy green Lake District – feeling contrastingly warm and cosy in my borrowed caravan. For I was watching refugees and their families leaving their entire lives in Syria and Afghanistan to escape the hellish civil war or the impossible Taliban and endeavor to start over in the West. This for me was an eye opener — not just because I wanted them to come live with me in this gorge in little England, but because I was so uplifted by the patience they showed. They kept encouraging each other, “Be patient!”, “Don’t worry!”, even as their overcrowded dinghy was sinking. One 11-year-old girl, Isra’a, was always touchingly, resiliently cheerful, except once when, finally overwhelmed by it all, she quietly cried. And it was heartbreaking.
Her mother also demonstrated to me how relative worldly pleasure is – she had lost everything in Aleppo, their house bombed to smithereens, and was facing a totally unknown future at the mercy of strangers. Yet, as they trudged mile after mile along an uncertain road in the pouring rain, she threw her arms in the air and declared triumphantly: “I feel so free!”
The refugees filmed on these hidden camera phones gave each other a lot of affection – not just their families but total strangers, such as the other refugees, perhaps because they recognized that they were (literally) in the same boat.
As are we all, really, when it comes right down to it. We are all migrators in the great ocean of samsara, just sometimes it is more obvious. I hope that by the time it happens to me I will have prepared deep reserves of patience and love, and that I meet with a kind welcome in those strange new lands.
Who wants world peace?!
Patience is essential all the time, and perhaps we all need to watch our minds more keenly than ever at the moment, when fear and its partner-in-crime, anger, threaten to hold sway and bring out the worst in all of us. Nowadays it seems to me that a lot of people aren’t even attempting to lip synch about harmony, tolerance, and peace – instead spouting racism, hatred, and intolerance is seen as increasingly acceptable. Are we desensitizing? Are all the adults leaving the room?! The lowest common denominator in the rise of all these behaviors = self-cherishing, me me me, what about me. Buddha called those with self-cherishing “childish” – I just hope we don’t end up in Lord of the Flies.
Ah well, there is always Pokemon Go …
So, a bit more on patience and how we can cultivate it. Here might be a good place to point out that patient acceptance is for unhappy thoughts once they have already risen; it is not the same as indulging in inappropriate attention. We are not building up these thoughts, but getting them into perspective within the space of acceptance and seeing clearly where they are coming from. As my teacher (himself once a refugee who came to England) puts it:
Patience allows us to see clearly the mental habit patterns that keep us locked in samsara, and thereby enables us to begin to undo them. ~ How to Solve our Human Problems
In this way we are removing their power over us rather than suppressing them; and we can then genuinely change the subject.
The idea in Buddhism is to oppose every delusion with its opposite, positive state of mind – eg, oppose hatred with love, or attachment with contentment. However, once, for example, strong dislike has already arisen toward someone, we need to accept that it is there and let the worst of it subside first so we experience some peace. Otherwise opposing it by thinking grimly and agitatedly, “No, no, I love this person!” (when in fact at that moment we really don’t) can be like trying to overlay one thought with another thought. We can end up with layers of conceptuality not freeing us but trapping us in suppression or over-elaboration.
Mental dead-end streets
If we notice ourselves just beginning to get agitated or deluded, remembering for example how someone cheated on us, it is a very good idea to change the subject before we get stuck in — just not go there. Avoid the inappropriate attention, as explained here. Trust the natural peace of the mind and don’t shake it. Stay confident and in control.
I find people always reply “Yes!” if I ask them “Do your ever find your thoughts just boring?” We can think whatever we want, including such interesting things, but instead we keep putting on the same old cracked record. We have thought all these boring thoughts already, umpteen times — there is nothing to add to them except further elaboration or speculation.
A lot of our thoughts are like mental dead-end streets – we know we will end up discouraged and de-energized if we go any further down that road only to have to come all the way back up it again. So if we get in early enough — just as the inappropriate attention is about to land us down a cul de sac — we can decide not to follow it.
Shift into neutral first
However …. if the mind is already shaken because the inappropriate attention is already strong, I think we need to allow some settling time; and this is tied in with all this advice to practice acceptance.
As Geshe Kelsang points out, for example, (when explaining how breathing meditation clears the mind), dark cloth needs to be bleached before it can be dyed our favorite colors. In the same way, we need to let a negative thought dissolve back into the natural peace of our mind before we dye our mind with our favorite thoughts.
Another example is driving a stick shift car – if we are in reverse gear we have to shift into neutral before we can move into forward gear. Likewise if our mind is feeling hideous we generally have to allow it to shift into some peacefulness before moving it into a fabulous mood.
Over to you. Do you agree that we need courageous acceptance if we are to survive?!
‘We can end up with layers of conceptuality not freeing us but trapping us in suppression or over-elaboration.’ Could this also be called cognitive dissonance. Interestingly this is often caused by abusive partners gaslighting, giving a different version of the truth and confusing their partner. We would be gaslighting ourselves wouldn’t we, saying we love someone when we are actually feeling hurt and angry. That’s not kind to ourselves, patient acceptance is kind to ourselves.
There are so many womderful practical tips in this article, thank you as always.
Love the way you open up our minds and heart.
Much Luv and Blessings
Yes, I believe we need courageous acceptance to want to train our mind. There have been times, recently in fact, when the delusions come in and play the same tune. I have to pray to Tara to get relief and help to regain a peaceful mind.
I love the bit about bleaching a dark cloth to dye it you favorite color and the neutral gear to change direction. And that meditation is the vehicle to take you there. 💞 To the place where it’s okay to change and see the good results..before the delusion develops.
Thanks Luna. Wonderful advice. It is important to distinguish what phase our delusion is at. Surrendering with patient acceptance once it is full blown rather than fighting seems counterintuitive so we must train! Thank you.
Luna, so much to admire. The refugees have so much to teach us. We were tremendously moved and inspired by another documentary on the BBC last night, “The Refugee Camp, our desert home”. The plight and potential we each have was so clearly shown.
I especially loved this crystal clear distillation in your article of what can be a real problem:
“However, once, for example, strong dislike has already arisen toward someone, we need to accept that it is there and let the worst of it subside first so we experience some peace. Otherwise opposing it by thinking grimly and agitatedly, “No, no, I love this person!” (when in fact at that moment we really don’t) can be like trying to overlay one thought with another thought. We can end up with layers of conceptuality not freeing us but trapping us in suppression or over-elaboration.”
Thank you as always kind caravan dweller.
YES! courageous acceptance, brazen resilience and never underestimating the power of showing up! Thank you for such perfectly timed wisdom xo
Shantideva tells us never to be patient with delusion and to destroy it as soon as . In my experience I guard my mind and if delusion arises I apply the antidote straight away and it leaves me in peace . It’s a wrathfull mind not tolerating for a moment looks like anger but it’s not because it destroys Delusions . We need to be like Geshe Ben Gungyal . When I notice that I’m following a negative habitual train of thought , I stop because I know it’s going to cause me harm . We need todo as Shantideva says and diligently guard our mind keeping it tied to the pillar of virtue by the rope of mindfulness and alertness . If we don’t do this it defaults to being under the influence of delusion and our dharma practice is dead , our habitual bad habits continue and gain strength keeping us trapped in samsara and suffering