The self-centered thought is behind all the anxiety-creating “horror” stories that our minds create. Our minds are incredible script writers, making events in our lives into dramas. Sometimes we are victims, sometimes we are heroes. Other times we are just background actors who feel helpless, like life is passing us by. I know my mind can be incredibly creative. Seeing which story lines bring us happiness and which bring us discomfort is interesting to watch. My problem is that I like being in the movie! The habit of mentally creating a movie starring ME is more comfortable than opposing this tendency, even if the movies aren’t in tune with reality and make me miserable.
I’ll be released in the next month and want to keep up my Dharma practice. I feel I should continue to focus strongly on the disadvantages of following the eight worldly concerns and the sufferings of cyclic existence, so that I remember what is important in my life. I have lived outside prison before and was incredibly unhappy because my focus was on getting pleasure, which is a never-ending search. Prison is not the cause of my unhappiness. Afflictions are! I am not being released from the cause of my unhappiness next month. Whether I’m physically incarcerated or not, I have to work to free my mind from the afflictions. These are some of the things I have been reminding myself of.
What am I most grateful for in my life? The people who continue to support me and help me to practice the Dharma. I feel gratitude towards all the people who have made it possible for me to change my life, all those who encouraged me to stay on track and expect me to live up to my potential.
In thinking about gratitude from a wider perspective, I love the verse that says, “Sentient beings are responsible for all my ordinary and ultimate happiness.” The more I think about all of the ways others directly and indirectly help me, I am filled with thankfulness, and I try to encourage that and make it into a wish to repay their kindness with my own enlightenment. So generating bodhicitta is the most powerful expression of gratitude. Realizing that, I remember reading about Lama Yeshe thanking everyone, even if he was the one helping them. I never really understood that until recently. Bodhisattvas are living in a state of constant gratitude. While gratitude may seem like a small topic, it is fundamental to our life and our Dharma practice.
T.B. expressed his gratitude to the Abbey upon his release: “Thank you for your prayers and those of all the others at the Abbey. I’m so thankful for all of your support, guidance, and love over the years. I’m nowhere near Buddhahood, but definitely I’m a happier, better man than I was eight and a half years ago, and it is only because of the incredible kindness of all my teachers who have encouraged my practice of the Dharma. I would not have found my way without you.”