(From the October 2016 Newsletter. To see the whole newsletter go here.)
I recently came across an episode from the Invisibilia podcast that I found to be interesting. While the episode isn’t necessarily Buddhist, it does point to some important ideas that might help to illuminate the nature of the self and how we might be able to change ourselves for the better.
From the perspective of practice, we build our personality through the repetition of behaviors and thought patterns; these patterns are often called habit-energy and in large part habit-energy makes up our personality. If you have ever tried to deliberately change these patterns you will pretty quickly come to realize that they can be quite deeply ingrained and difficult to change or work with. While they may be challenging, it doesn’t mean that they are somehow permanent. Happily, even the deepest patterns of our minds can be worked with and redirected.
An example of this comes to mind recently as I encounter division and hostility, directly from others and also in the news and on various media. Often, this external problem really isn’t addressable through conversation. I can address my side of it though (the fear and defensiveness, etc.) through the simple practice of wishing that others find kindness. We can wish that beings be free from suffering and we can try to be kind and patient in dealing with others. Whether it appeals to us or not, we are on this earth together and it is difficult to maintain one side of various opposites when trying to be kind to others. Being patiently kind in the face of division helps to dissolve those polarities that we encounter outwardly and helps to change our inner habit energy.