In Buddhism, there is a practice called Mind Training and within this practice there is a section on reducing one’s suffering. Now, suffering here means a dissatisfaction with life, an unease, a discontentment and a feeling that life could be better. The following four methods are described in mind training as the best way to stop the suffering of all beings, and bringing them, and ourselves, happiness. Of course, we have to be realistic and understand that life is not always going to be happy, and it is an unsatisfactory part of life that suffering is always lurking around the corner. However, these four practices will help to reduce our suffering and give us the tools to be able to cope with whatever comes our way.
Accruing Mental Stability
We have to take responsibility for our actions and ensure we act in a way that will help and not harm ourselves and others. This can be achieved by practicing the ten helpful acts, and refraining from the ten harmful acts. I have listed these acts below:
- Harmful Acts
- Killing or causing others to kill
- Stealing/taking what has not been given
- Sexual misconduct – harming someone with the sexual act
- Divisive speech – speech that divides people
- Harsh words
- Idle talk/gossip
- Covetousness – desire for things we do not have
- Ill will – thinking harmful thoughts about someone
- Inappropriate view – not understanding impermanence, cause & effect, non-self and suffering
- Helpful Acts
- Kind speech
- Pleasant words
- Helpful words
- Appropriate view
If we adhere to the ten helpful acts we will be helping ourselves and others. We will also be mentally calm, as we will not be tormented by past unacceptable behavior.
Acknowledge harmful deeds
If we have committed any of the ten harmful acts we should acknowledge that fact. We do not need to go to a priest or guru, or even tell our friends and family, but we do need to acknowledge the mistake to ourselves. This acknowledgement should not be taken lightly and we must be totally honest with ourselves, and not try to justify our actions. We have to mean it and promise to refrain from such an act again. This acknowledgement should not be used to beat ourselves up or to feel guilty – neither of these are helpful. We have made a mistake or done an harmful act, we have acknowledged it, made a mental note not to act in that way again and learned a valuable lesson, now it is time to let go and move on.
Removal of external hindrances
Sometimes we come across hindrances whilst practicing meditation and mindfulness. Like we are too busy and can’t find the time or place to practice, our friends want us to go out, or we are trapped by Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and so on. So, think about the benefits of doing meditation/mindfulness practices, and this will help free yourself from any hindrances.
Removal of internal hindrances
Sometimes we have inner hindrances that stop us from practicing meditation and mindfulness, such as laziness, tiredness or strong disturbing emotions. So, see all thoughts, feelings and emotions as impermanent and in a constant flux, and this will help you understand that what you are going through right now won’t last. That will bring you back to the path of meditation and mindfulness.
(You can read more about the five hindrances here.)
If you wish to reduce your suffering, and the suffering of those around you, follow the helpful path, acknowledge your mistakes and do not let the five hindrances push you off track.
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