18 Mar
Posted in: Books, Practice
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Training the Heart

The Monday night Dharma Book Group met last night to continue our discussion of Joseph Goldstein’s new book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening. We went around the room, reading aloud passages that stood out for us, and then we talked about them.

Here’s one of the passages I read out:

Without mindfulness, we simply act out all the various patterns and habits of our conditioning. Ajahn Sumedho, one of the senior Western monks of the Thai Forest tradition, quite aptly pointed out that, contrary to some popular beliefs, our aim should be not to follow the heart but to train the heart

All of us have a mix of motivations; not everything in our hearts is wise or wholesome. The great power of mindful discernment allows us to abandon what is unwholesome and to cultivate the good. This discernment is of inestimable value for our happiness and wellbeing.

With recurring unskillful thoughts, we need an actively engaged mindfulness, because, as the Buddha pointed out, whatever we frequently think of and ponder, that will be the inclination of our minds. Mindfulness has the power to show us what kinds of thoughts are arising, and in the case of unskillful ones, what we may have unknowingly been inclining our minds toward. The simple reflection that these thoughts actually do lead to one’s own and others’ affliction and difficulty, away from wisdom and awakening, is an effective tool to use in those times rather than being just a phrase to read.  

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