What is a Buddhist practice?
The main focus in Buddhism is to work on overcoming our own shortcomings and realizing our positive potentials. Shortcomings include lack of clarity and emotional imbalance, causing us confusion about life. As a result, we behave compulsively, driven by disturbing emotions like anger, greed and naivety. Our positive potentials include our ability to communicate clearly, to understand reality, to empathize with others, and to improve ourselves.
The starting point of Buddhist practice is to calm our minds and be mindful, which means constantly remembering to be aware of how we’re acting and speaking with others, and how we’re thinking when we’re alone. It’s not that we just observe them and leave them as they are. When we stay mindful, we can discriminate between what is constructive and what is destructive.
The purpose of our introspection and self-awareness is to find the causes of our problems. External factors and people certainly provide the circumstances for our difficulties to arise – but the Buddhist approach is to try and identify the deeper causes, and for this we need to look at our own minds. Our mental habits, as well as our positive and negative emotions, affect the way we experience life.
When we’re experiencing stress from work, depression, anxiety, loneliness and insecurity, our difficulties in dealing with them come from our mental and emotional states, not from the problems themselves. Once we become mindful of the emotions, attitudes and behaviors that are causing us distress and difficulties, we can apply remedies to them.
The Buddha was once just like us – a normal person, undergoing the struggles of life. And just like all of us, he also wanted to improve his life and that of those around him. Through his own introspection, he came to realize that regardless of what’s going on around us, we have the power and ability to stay calm, mindful, and in control of our emotions.
This – what the Dalai Lama likes to call “emotional hygiene” – is something that transcends boundaries of culture and religion, because it goes to the heart of what we all desire: a happy and peaceful life, free of problems – “We need to apply a kind of emotional hygiene based on a clearer understanding of reality and the workings of the mind”. – The 14th Dalai Lama
Peace and Love, Jim