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Lojong 42) Train in 3 Difficult Disciplines

7. Guidelines (37 – 57)

42) Train in 3 difficult disciplines.

Expansion: First, become aware when disturbing emotions arise. Later, as soon as I am aware, turn from it. Finally, take action to prevent the seed before it is sown.

This is an extremely practical Lojong saying. It is a method by which we can learn to gradually stop doing those repetitive behavior patterns that cause so much of our suffering.

The following is a common Alcoholics Anonymous “story”. I got it from “The Recovery Corner”, (click on the link to go there) which also has some of the AA slogans listed. The AA slogans serve the same purpose as the Lojong sayings (but this is material for another post.)

Here is the relevant AA story.

           I walk down the street;
                There is a deep hole in the sidewalk;
                I fall in.
           I am lost ... I am helpless,
                It isn't my fault.
           It takes me forever to find a way out.

           I walk down the same street;
                There is a deep hole in the sidewalk;
                I pretend I don't see it;
                I fall in again.
           I can't believe I am in the same place,
                but it isn't my fault.
           It still takes a long time to get out.

           I walk down the same street;
                There is a deep hole in the sidewalk;
                I see it is there;
                I still fall in ... it's a habit.
           My eyes are open,
                I know where I am.
           It is my fault.
           I get out immediately.

           I walk down the same street,
                There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
           I walk around it.

           I walk down another street.

Notice how the AA saying mirrors the content of the Lojong. This is because this is an essentially true method for changing recurrent and deeply engrained behavior patterns. You can apply this method to any problem that you recognize needs to change.

Another interesting understanding can be seen in this story and its relation to the Lojong saying. The AA concept of “it’s not my fault” / “it’s a disease” is more clearly understood, to be a process in recovery. At some point, it must change from a disease that is not my fault to a choice. The next right choice is not to use a drug today (now). The alcoholic may still have a disease, but he or she also has a choice in each moment.

Take anger as an example, if you do not recognize any addictions in your life (like drugs, sex, food, TV, shopping, ego-clinging, a dharma, etc.):

At first anger arises without my conscious awareness until after I have engaged in it and finally recognize the havoc and mayhem that has occurred. If the problems I cause are great enough, I may determine it would be better not to do these emotional and physical behaviors. On the other hand, if I am able to engage in excuse making that blinds me to reality, and others are willing to let my bad behavior slide, I will be stuck doing this same behavior over and over without awareness.

Later, I may see I have an anger problem and begin to “try” not to engage in it. A better method for trying not to engage in the behavior is to become aware as soon as possible of what is happening with me. It may be that in the beginning, I am only able to become aware as the anger is subsiding and I am watching the havoc unfold. This is still a start on the second step of “as soon as I am aware, I turn away”. This would be a good time to apologize and attempt to make some amends. (It is likely at this stage, my apology and amends will only be skeptically considered.) The goal is to move this awareness closer and closer to “the beginning”, so that I become aware as the emotion is arising. If I can become aware as the emotion is arising and before I have engaged in harmful behavior; I am close to “Right Action”.

The final step in this example, is to be fully engaged in behaviors that are the incompatible opposite of anger, revenge, havoc, mayhem, etc. These behaviors are being loving, kind, and compassionate to all sentient beings.

This same method can be applied to changing any negative habit.  Interestingly, the incompatible opposite behaviors are most often the same: be loving, kind, and compassionate to all sentient beings.

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