Self-Encouragement in Practice
Self-encouragement helps us in our daily lives and in our practice of the Buddhadharma. In this audio teaching given at Riwoche Temple in Toronto, Phakchok Rinpoche relates personal examples of how he encourages himself. He explains that when he wakes in the morning, he reflects on the previous day or week. He thinks about what he did well and acknowledges where he made mistakes.
It is essential to understand that Rinpoche emphasizes he does not judge himself. Instead, he suggests we engage in an exercise in self-encouragement. How do we do that? By setting our intentions and motivation in a positive direction. Judging our past behavior harshly or being too self-critical does not help us to transform.
If we dwell on our bad behavior and worry about all of our mistakes, how can that help us? That type of process, Rinpoche notes, wastes our precious time. That is not the way to move forward. We can become stuck. And the funny thing is that we are stuck in our own minds!
Instead, Rinpoche recommends some gentle self-encouragement. What does that mean? We kindly remind ourselves to practice. And we can encourage ourselves that we are able to spend our time in a meaningful way. Just reminding ourselves confidently, “Yes! I can do it,” is very important. And with that thought, we can move forward. We don’t get stuck in complaining or feeling bad as we think about our past wrongdoing. Don’t beat yourself up!
Rinpoche gives another personal example of how we need to be mindful of our own attitudes. He admits that in the past, he was sometimes pessimistic. After he became aware of this, however, he started paying more attention to his own speech. Now, he recommends this self-encouragement in practice.
Because he has paid attention to this pattern, Rinpoche notes that he is able to easily refrain from negative speech. How do we do this? Whenever we catch ourselves starting to say something negative, just keep quiet. Shut up! This is a very practical way to train in overcoming pessimistic complaints. And if we adopt this method, we can feel encouraged when we see improvement.
Every day, take a few minutes to gently encourage yourself before you engage in Dharma practice. Remind yourself that you, too, have Buddha-nature and can attain awakening!
If you make a mistake or find your negative emotions manifesting, simply take a moment to acknowledge that. And then gently and kindly remind yourself that you are on the path of transformation. Set the intention to be mindful and careful, and to avoid negative or harsh speech and thoughts. And remember that also means to not think harshly of yourself! Each moment, we begin afresh.