As a former monk, many people have asked me how to stay motivated to practice, to continue to meditate when life is difficult, and when there seems to be very little time. I was a monk, yes, so I have practice, but today I am also a father, a husband, a brother, a work colleague and so I understand this busy-ness. Today, I’m sharing how I find motivation as a layperson, but also as a former Buddhist monk.
Starting with a small, simple focus is a great way to find motivation to continue to practice. In Buddhism, we say there are different levels of capacity, we start small and with a personal focus and build up to practicing for others. In this way, the easiest place to start is to look at ourselves. If I practice today, if I find motivation, I will most likely find calmness and a sense of accomplishment, so start with that. What is great about this first step in motivation, is that when we make a commitment to practice, and we see results, we also know those results benefit others. When I am calmer and happier, so too am I able to help others find happiness. As we build on this, then the next level of capacity is to think “How can I be of benefit to others today?” Sometimes practitioners confuse this with doing grandiose gestures like giving away all their belongings, but actually, something as simple as a genuine smile can be of benefit to others. We must start small, and within our capacity.
Every morning then, when we wake up, we should take a moment, before the chatter of the day begins, to find a minute to set our intention for the day. We do this by saying “I will use my body, speech and mind for the benefit of others”. We call this “Setting intention”. Just thinking it, and making that the commitment becomes part of the training and part of the practice.
If we can remember every morning to do this, then it’s effect will last all day and over time, it will become habitual.
The added benefit of beginning the day with this focus, is its ability to anchor your day with something positive, something to turn towards in times of difficulty. We can analyse from this point of view “How can I benefit others in this situation?” or “Am I trying in this moment to make my speech, or my thoughts or my actions helpful for others?”
This practice takes time, it doesn’t always come naturally, so I think it’s important to be kind to yourself too. This means, if the day does go badly, and perhaps you didn’t benefit others, it’s okay. It’s an opportunity to reflect and learn.
Let me say it again, this isn’t easy. Sometimes I see people at the beginning of their practice get despondent. Life will test us, people will test us. As I said I am a father and a husband now, so I know that life can be difficult and send us challenges or obstacles. In Lojong, we use these obstacles to remind us of our path. I think this is a kind way to look at life. If it is difficult, it is training us, and our mind to see the positive transformation opportunities, it is giving us the chance to check ourselves all the time.
If our motivation is good, and we continue each day to focus on the opportunity to follow our path, check our intention, be of benefit to others, then this is the meaning of Lojong.- Lojong is a Tibetan word. “Lo” means Mind, “Jong” means training. Everything is practice, everything is training.
རྗེ་ཙོང་ཁ་པས། “བསམ་པ་བཟང་ན་ས་དང་ལམ་ཡང་བཟང༌། ། བསམ་པ་ངན་ན་ས་དང་ལམ་ཡང་ངན། ། ཐམས་ཅད་བསམ་པ་དག་ལ་རག་ལས་པས། ། རྟག་པར་བསམ་པ་བཟང་ལ་འབད་པར་བྱ། །” -As written in Lama Tsong Khapa’s A Literary Gem of Poetry- “If the motivations are good, then so will be the levels and paths. If the motivations are bad, then the levels and paths will be too. Since everything depends on one’s motivations. Always strive to make sure that they are positive.”
I wish you well on your journey!