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The Practice of Self Reflection
 
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The Practice of Self Reflection

byDzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche

The desire for happiness is universal. And beyond finding happiness and meaning in our lives, most of us want to be good, decent human beings. Wanting to be good, happy, and decent is not only a reasonable desire but also a noble one. Ironically, much of the time we struggle with how to go about accomplishing this. We have an idea of how we want to be, but we always find ourselves running up against our own doubts, fears, and insecurities.

On the spiritual path, we speak of enlightenment. But how do we reconcile enlightenment with what we see when we look in the mirror? If we strive for enlightenment by trying to bypass our confusion, our practice will remain divorced from our immediate experience. Yet, when we focus only on our habitual tendencies, we get bogged down in our own self-absorption and pain.

This struggle to reconcile the notion we have of enlightenment with our own confusion is the very starting point of the path. It is an expression of our deep yearning for freedom and happiness, which is itself an indication of the great potential of mind we all possess. At the same time, the fact that we have this greater potential does not mean that we are completely noble or enlightened from the start. We may have confusion. But instead of trying to either sidestep or fight against our confusion, we can make good use of it. It takes some maturity to learn to accommodate both our greater potential and our neurosis. We can develop this maturity through the practice of self-reflection.

Self-reflection is the spirit and practice of honestly looking at whatever arises in our experience, without judgment. Habitually, this is difficult for us to do; our tendency is to try to rid ourselves of unpleasant experiences and to chase after pleasant ones. The unique beauty and kindness of the practice of self-reflection is that it does not demand that we experience anything other than what we experience. Looking without bias brings both the great potential of mind and our confusion into the light of our innate intelligence. Doing so alters the historical struggle we have with our mind, transforming it into the very basis of the path of enlightenment.

Self-reflection is the common thread than runs through all traditions and lineages of Buddhist practice. It protects our practice from becoming just another enterprise by breathing life into the teachings and making them a living experience.


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