Lojong Practice Journal: Change your attitude, but remain natural
The 59 slogans through a social justice lens
One summer evening, my wife and I were taking a walk through our neighbourhood. We were talking as we walked along, or rather, I was talking. I was sharing some story when she remarked that she’d heard this before. The reaction inside me was instantaneous. I went from relaxed and enjoying our walk together to defensive and irritated. I heard what she was saying as a criticism, and it stung. I didn’t want to be repeating myself, as if I care so much about my own voice I was incapable of remembering what stories I’d already shared with her.
I felt this reaction in my body, and noticed how fast I responded from this habitual place. I knew the root of it and I also saw how entirely unhelpful it was. I didn’t want to feel irritated, and I didn’t want to make this some big deal that would require a lot of back and forth unpacking that root. I could see the situation unfolding before me and it was exhausting just thinking about it.
I took three conscious breaths, continuing the walk in silence. My wife was aware she’d struck a nerve and was also silent for several blocks. Then she asked if I was okay and did I want to talk about it. I checked in and realised I didn’t. I honestly was okay. I’d let go of the irritation in those few blocks, just noticing it and letting it run its course. I’d asked myself if I really wanted to go where I knew I always go when I feel bad about talking too much and repeating a story someone has already heard. The answer was no.
This is the practice of the slogan ‘Change your attitude, but remain natural’. I did not force or fake things when I decided to let go of my irritation. I merely shifted my attitude and let everything else shift with it.
I realise that this could sound like it’s simple, but I know it isn’t. This was, and remains, the single example I can think of where I was able to apply this practice in a moment and watch the transformation happen that quickly. More often, the shift in attitude take weeks or even months, but the point is not to pretend at feeling any different than we do.
This is not about performing equanimity, or any other virtuous attitude. This is not some guidance for positive affirmations. It’s simply saying, you can adjust the way you think and feel in the world, and when you do, remain true to yourself. You don’t have to become a new or different person. You do you with the intention to be of benefit, to be kind and generous to yourself and others, and it will unfold organically.
This blog was originally published on Medium.
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