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Awaken Every Day

Excerpts from the book

Shambhala Publications recently released Venerable Thubten Chodron’s newest book, Awaken Every Day: 365 Buddhist Reflections to Invite Mindfulness and Joy. It’s a pithy compendium of Buddhist wisdom, encouraging us to understand the true causes of our suffering and the paths to freedom. Below are excerpts for a preview.

Natural Love and Compassion

When we meditate deeply and repeatedly on the kindness of others, we understand that we’ve been the recipient of tremendous kindness throughout our lives. We begin to see kindness all around us and, in response, the wish to reciprocate and pay it forward naturally arises.

The happiness we experience when we express our love and kindness to others is qualitatively different from that which arises from following a self-centered attitude. Love, which wants others to have happiness and its causes, and compassion, which seeks to free others from suffering and its causes, bring more inner peace than winning the lottery.

Cleaning Out Our Garbage

If we review our life—or even just the past year—with honesty, we’ll notice the times when the garbage in our minds has led us to make bad decisions.

Alarmed, we may scream, “Woe is me! This is too much to handle!” and then go to the bar, shopping mall, casino, refrigerator, or movies.

This attitude and the actions it inspires get us nowhere.

Our old habits of low self-esteem, self-criticism, and defeatism are some of the garbage to abandon. Instead of wallowing in such unrealistic thoughts, we must leave the rubbish behind.

Whenever you find garbage thoughts and feelings in your mind, use that to strengthen your refuge in the Three Jewels—the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha—and renew your determination to change. Remember, to clean a room, we must first see the dirt. Similarly, to clean your mind, you must first recognize the trash there.

So rejoice when you see it because now you can clean it up.

Baby Bodhisattvas

Having a positive vision of what we can become is important for everyone. Unfortunately, in communities where children see poverty, gun violence, and so on, this is the vision they have of their future. Not seeing a possible alternative, they replicate the behavior of their older siblings and parents, bringing the same tragic results.

The need for a positive image of what we can become spiritually is essential. The Buddha—Chenrezig, the manifestation of compassion, and Tara, the female manifestation of awakening—become our role models.

Perhaps we can’t relate to having a body made of light and having equal compassion for all sentient beings right now, but we can see that each of us has the seeds of compassion and wisdom within us. The small beginnings of the buddhas we will eventually become exist in us now.

Let’s generate the intention to nourish these seeds and act so that these seeds will sprout, grow, and flourish.

Reflect for a Minute

Reflect for a minute on the kindness of others—the kindness not only of friends and family, but also of strangers whose work in society helps us. Reflect on the benefit you receive from people who challenge you: they help you to discover resources within yourself that you didn’t know you had.

Seeing how dependent you are on others to stay alive and how much benefit you’ve received from them, respond from your heart with a wish to repay that kindness. Wish to make a positive contribution to the welfare of other living beings.

Your spiritual practice is one way to make a positive impact, because by progressing along the path, your capability to be of direct benefit to others and to work for their welfare increases by leaps and bounds.

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.