This week we will explore the second two of the Five Strengths. One way to think of these strengths is to consider them the answer to the question “how do I ________ my practice?” You can insert words like strengthen, increase, start, develop, etc. Basically there are 5 aspects of a strong practice. We had a good talk last week about the two of them – Determination and Familiarization. If we are determined to see clearly and we get familiar with when we do see clearly and when we don’t, we increase the likelihood that we will see clearly. You can think of the increase in capacity as a natural outgrowth of your determination and familiarization. This is true for any area of practice. Do you want to live a generous life? Keep the intention alive and pay attention to when you are generous and when you are not generous. There’s no need to judge it. It is the nature of being humans to be generous some times and not generous other times. You are simply paying attention to what arises in both situations. It is so accessible. Simply fill in whatever quality, understanding and/or ability you want to practice with.
The second two strengths are equally accessible – Seed of Virtue and Reproach. Together they point to continuity of practice and restraint of the ego. The ego is always pushing and pulling to get its way. We live in this constant maneuvering. As practitioners, we all know this exists but we rarely pay attention to it. I think we are all intimidated by the power of our impulsiveness. Often it seems bigger than my intentions of goodwill and kindness. For many years the more I practiced the more embarrassed I got whenever I saw this impulsive energy. To be honest, it seemed to me that I would act in ways that were completely contrary to being a Buddhist or even a simple meditator. My aggressiveness, meanness, stinginess and lack of care for anyone other than myself seemed to be entrenched and unchangeable.
I now know that concepts like “needs improvement”, “needs to change”, “bad/good habits” were the problem. It is near impossible to change something you can’t stand to look it. When “seeing”, however, is just a natural part of the way you live – than the emphasis is on “seeing” rather than what you see. The more I let go of the idea that something was wrong with me the more I was able to look at all of my behaviors, habits, reaction whether they we what I would consider virtuous or not. It feels like I am constantly saying this but it is so true and yet rarely trusted. I know without a doubt that when I leaned to become more interested in how something had come to be rather than what I looked like or was doing in any given moment I simultaneously became happier. I’m not saying it was any easier to see my non-virtuous conduct than if I wasn’t practicing. Its just that I had a focal point other than praise and blame.
Can you see the possibilities of these for strengths in your own life? We’ll talk about the pit-falls and uplifts on Thursday. See you then…