Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Your Real Enemy

"When your mind is trained in self-discipline, even if you are surrounded by hostile forces, your peace of mind will hardly be disturbed. On the other hand, your mental peace and calm can easily be disrupted by your own negative thoughts and emotions. So I repeat, the real enemy is within, not outside. Usually we define our enemy as a person, an external agent, whom we believe is causing harm to us or to someone we hold dear. But such an enemy is relative and impermanent. One moment, the person may act as an enemy; at yet another moment, he or she may become your best friend. This is a truth that we often experience in our own lives. But negative thoughts and emotions, the inner enemy, will always remain the enemy."

Dalai Lama
Quoted in a Tricycle.com blog entry


Stock Charting Software said...

I think you are right. Negative thoughts shove us to think negative about the people around us; as we can see negative things in them by ignoring all the positive things they do for us.

Lao Bendan said...

Thanks for you comment. You're absolutely correct, of course, but you only get partial credit -- maybe 5/10. As you say, without self-discipline you easily fall into the trap of ignoring others' good points and only seeing their bad points.

But the real question i hoped you would have taken away from this is what does self-discipline give you that allows you to overcome this? When you train your mind what do you see about yourself, others, the world, existence, that makes it impossible to fall into that trap? When your mind is trained, there is no you, no enemy, no good, no bad, no harm, no gifts, nothing to hold dear, nothing to despise and attack.

With self-discipline who's mind is being trained by who? With self-discipline what need is there of training? In fact, what could be trained?

Elle said...

Hi Lao - this post reminds me of where i'm at. I have just realised that there is another way in life and become awake to the spiritual path, but i have no discipline yet - well not much anyway. I guess we all have to start somewhere.

Lao Bendan said...

Welcome to the path. This path is definitely a case where "patience is a virtue." If you push yourself too hard you'll burn out and quit. If you don't try hard enough you'll get bored and quit. The key is finding that middle ground and persevering.

If you haven't already, i very, very highly recommend that you read "Mindfulness In Plain English." I think i posted a link to an online copy once before so if you search the blog you should find it. Otherwise, just Google it and you'll find it. Yes, it's written for Vipassana meditation (commonly called 'Insight Meditation') but it is a magnificent introduction to mindfulness and meditation that will benefit practitioners in all schools of Buddhism. It's with these two topics that we all start. Read it, slowly and with much thought, it will be good for you. Promise.

Glad you're part of the team. Have a good day.

Elle said...

Thanks for the welcome and recommendation. It's so nice to speak with other people who are on a similar journey - where i live i seem to be the only one :(

I've not long read Mindfulness in Plain English. It was a fantastic read and was my first introduction to mindfulness. It is something i've been practicing ever since. The practice of watching myself in order to gain insight has proved very fruitful and has altered my perception of a lot of things. For me this is true esp with regards to my own and others motives. It's amazing what you can learn about the human ego this way. I hope i have become a better person as a result.

I think your advice that patience is a virtue is really apt too esp with regards to the name of your post 'Your Real Enemy'. In the last year i have come a long way with regards to changing negative thought habits and realise that we can't expect to change immediately but my next obstacle is something i want to see results in and know i shouldn't expect it. It's something you've mentioned so i hope you don't mind if i ask for your opinion on the subject.

I am 31 years old and have been drinking too much alcohol for a while. I'm not an alcoholic but drink almost every night. I am managing to have a few days off a week recently but i have to be ready to have a day of and cannot seem to just decide not to drink. I thought maybe i could coincide this with my spiritual path but i'm not sure one can be a spiritual person and someone who drinks regularly. It seems this is what is keeping me passing back and fore through the doorsill! What do you think? Am i my own worse enemy in this case?

Lao Bendan said...

First point: where does it say that you can't be on the path and drink at the same time? This reminds me of something i remember the Dalai Lama saying once: If you practice Theravada Buddhism you are forbidden from eating meat. If you practice Zen, you don't eat it of your own choosing, but if it is offered you do. Then, there are some Tantric practices that require you to eat meat. Which is right?????? Who's to decide what is correct behavior 'on the path?'

Second point: It is perfectly possible, IMO, to be spiritual and to drink at the same time. Drinking is not the issue; the unquenchable desire to drink is the issue. That's what you have to beat, and it sounds to me like your drinking is nothing but a long held habit. You're used to it; you've done it for a long time. Having a couple of drinks each night takes you out of a state of mind that you are trying to avoid and into a state of mind that seems to bring you happiness.

This is where mindfulness comes into play. I think you should do two things: find out what you are running from and break the habit.

For the first, starting about the time you usually think about getting your first drink start being very, very mindful of your thoughts. When you notice that first thought of "i should go get that drink," stop in your tracks and try and notice what the thought was immediately before. After enough practice you'll be able to find it. Then find the thought before that. When you do this enough you'll see what thoughts serve as the trigger for the "i need a drink" thoughts. When you see what the triggers are you see what you're running from and can then deal with it, thus eliminating the issue.


Lao Bendan said...

... continued from above...

In addition to the previous comment, here's my recommendation. Keep an apple or orange (or other nutritious fruit of your choosing) next to each can of beer in the refrigerator, or whatever your drink of choice is. Each time you find yourself going to the 'fridge for that first drink grab the apple instead.

Find a comfortable place to sit with the apple. Settle in and then spend 5 minutes looking very closely at how it feels to sit in the chair. What is the pressure on the back of your legs? On your butt? On your back? On your shoulders? The back of your head? The bottom of your feet? Can you feel a breeze on the cheeks of your face? How is the sun lighting the room? Brightly? Softly and warmly? Can you hear anything? What? Discriminate each and every sound you can hear. Do all of the above non-verbally. Notice the sensations, but don't verbalize them in your head.

Then spend 5 minutes looking at the apple. What color is it? How does the color vary around the apple. What is the texture? Are there imperfections? What about the stem on the top? The indentation on the bottom? Is it waxy looking? If their are imperfections, are they smooth or ragged? Notice everything you can notice.

Then spend about 15-20 minutes eating the apple. Take a bite. Do you start to salivate when you take your first bite or before taking that bite? Notice exactly when saliva first start to run. Notice the smell. Does the smell remain as you chew? Notice the texture of the skin as you chew it. Notice the texture of the meat as you chew it. As you chew, notice the difference between biting the meat and biting through the skin.

Pay very careful attention to the change in texture as you chew. Watch as the texture softens. Don't swallow until it is complete and utter mush. Then notice the sensations as the pulp slides down your throat. Can you follow it all the way? Then sit for a few seconds and imagine the nutrients spreading out from the stomach into your system.

Then take a second bite and try and be even more mindful. Repeat until the apple/orange is finished.

If this takes up to 30 minutes, that should be equivalent to what it would take to drink the beer, but odds are that you are no longer thinking about the beer and no longer need it.

For the first week go ahead and drink the second beer if you want. Then as the weeks go by, work up to where you no longer need the beer and you have broken the habit.

Good luck.