Enthusiasm is the key to success!

Jan 4, 2024

 

As we know, the final stages of the path to enlightenment include the six perfections of the bodhisattva. The fourth one is the most important; without it, enlightenment isn’t possible. 

 

It’s very delicious; it’s called enthusiastic perseverance or joyful effort. Sounds nice, but how to get it? We need to see it in the framework of its opposite – and that’s called “laziness.” This is a big shock for us. We don’t like the word laziness at all, but when we understand it, it’s a revelation, and so logical.

 

There are three levels of laziness. The first one is really simple but primordially deep. What is this laziness? “Oh, I can’t be bothered.” And what’s the thing we can’t be bothered doing? It’s so clear: the thing we can’t be bothered doing is the thing that takes too much effort. And what takes effort? Whatever attachment doesn’t want to do! That’s it!

 

Attachment is at the very core of laziness. Attachment to what? Our comfort zone, physically and mentally.

 

On the other hand, we just love doing what attachment wants! So so much enthusiasm for that! My favorite meal is my breakfast. I try to be a good girl and do my morning practice before I put one mouthful of food into my mouth, but while I’m doing my practice I’m thinking about my breakfast, I promise you. I’m attached to my food, so I have enthusiasm to get up a bit earlier, do some practice, and then whizz off to my kitchen, which is about two feet away, and make my delicious caffe latte, or my chai, and my toast and butter and Vegemite: nothing will stop me from doing that! 

 

We all recognize this. 

 

All the lamas say you will make effort to do something when you know the benefits. This is huge. We all know the benefits of having an ice cream. We all know the benefit of going to the gym. We will persevere, make effort, with the end goal firmly in our minds.

 

Of course, it’s so much harder to make effort to do our practice, to be enthusiastic, to persevere: the benefits seem so distant, so far away. 

 

So there you are, lying in bed in the morning, and all you want to do is follow the craving for comfort, to turn over and go back to sleep. Right there, make effort, that minute: greet the cold, put your feet on the floor, do your three prostrations; make your offerings to the guru buddha on your altar, sit down, and do your practice. You know the caffe latte will come eventually!

 

Until you’ve got bodhichitta, I promise, or until you’ve got bliss in your meditation, you’re going to have to make effort. What drives the yogis to their meditation cushion is their bodhichitta, their incredible compassion for suffering beings, and then bliss is the bonus!

 

We’ve got to be humble with ourselves and be disciplined because discipline is the way to go against laziness. I think forget the long-term benefit for now. I always know if I do my practice properly in the morning, don’t shortchange myself, I will feel good about myself. You pat yourself on the back. 

 

That’s a good enough benefit! So keep remembering it.

 

It’s just going to take effort, every day, but you pace yourself with your effort. You’ll fail one day, and then you pick yourself up again, and you keep doing this until you’ve dug this new groove, this new habit in your mind. 

 

Attachment’s a junkie that wants to stay in its comfort zone. It’s deeply ingrained in us, so don’t be mean to yourself. Just know what attachment is like, and you go against it every time, and you build up this new habit.

 

The next level of laziness is really tricky. It sounds like virtue, and it goes, “Oh, I’m too busy. I’ll do it later.” It’s called “procrastination.” This is our worst crime against ourselves. The first level of laziness is blunt; you’re not pretending: “I can’t be bothered.” You’re being very direct. But with this next level of laziness you trick yourself. First second it’s actually “I can’t be bothered,” but instantly by, “Oh, I’m too busy, I’ll do it later!” You feel like you’re off the hook. But you know you will not do it later; you know that. Later never comes. This is one of the tragic ways that we waste our lives.

 

And then we carry this heavy burden of put-off jobs, like a turtle with its house on its back. And the awful part of putting things off is that it builds up aversion to the task, even a dread of it. This is so heavy! And that becomes the habit. No wonder we get depressed!

 

They say one of the saddest ways to die is to die with an awareness of your wasted life, the things you’ve put off doing. One of my friends – a nun, who’s the same age as me, so I’ve got to be careful – soon before she died, she talked about “the regrets of her wasted life.” 

 

“I’ll do it later. I’ll do it later. Oh, I can’t start concentration meditation now; I’ll do it later. I can’t take time off to do that retreat; I’ll do it later. Oh, I can’t do this or that; I’ll do it later.” We’re all the same!

 

And what’s the thing you put off doing? The thing you can’t be bothered doing, the thing that attachment doesn’t like. The thing that forces you outside your comfort zone.

 

Even in our ordinary day-to-day jobs we can see this. On my computer, I have all my jobs. I’m lucky: all my jobs are Dharma jobs: editing books, writing letters to people, doing whatever I do. But there are some jobs I don’t like doing, and I always put them off. They’re sitting there on my list, and, within a millisecond, I’ve gone to number three and left number two – “I’ll do it later” – and then I see one month later number two’s still sitting there. And the joke is that when you actually do it, it takes five minutes. You can’t believe it was so easy! 

 

That’s the difference between us and the holy beings. When I look at the number of Lama Zopa’s projects, I can’t believe he did all that. I can’t believe he had the time and the space to do it. It’s because he didn’t put things off; that’s all. Every second, any job he ever had, he did it, or had it done. There was no putting off; there was no wasting time; there was no procrastinating. His Holiness is the same.

 

Then there’s the third level of laziness. But it doesn’t sound like laziness at all, but it’s the worst one, and it’s called, “Ah, not possible. I can’t do that.” That’s the one that keeps us stuck in our comfort zone: “I’m not capable.” It sounds like humility, but it’s cheating ourselves, getting ourselves off the hook. It’s the worst laziness.

 

We see His Holiness, his incredible compassion for the people who’ve slaughtered his people, who’ve harmed them all those years. And he cracks jokes about them! He has such compassion for them! But as soon as our boyfriend looks mean at us, we have a panic attack! What am I supposed to do!

 

We put His Holiness on a pedestal – “Oh, I can’t be like that. That’s just His Holiness!”

 

Sure, we can’t be like him immediately, but we can know that we can do it, one step at a time.

 

Lama Zopa never slept. I can’t possibly even pretend to try not to sleep; it would be silly. It’s trying to be like Roger Federer if you’re only in grade-one tennis – you can’t. But you don’t say, “Oh, that’s just Federer. I can’t do that.” You know you can. There’s a plan; there’s a map; there’s a method. You go one step at a time.

 

Ven. Roger said about Lama Zopa, “For Rinpoche, sleep is a disgusting waste of time.” Right now, no way can I even begin to try to not sleep! So instead of going, “Oh, I can’t do that, I can’t be like Lama Zopa,” when I lie down and hit my head on my delicious pillow, before I sink into the oblivion of sleep I say to myself, “May I find sleep disgusting!” I sow the seed!

 

I start the ball rolling, and I’m very happy with that. I can’t twist myself into a knot and pretend to meditate all night; I’d go mad. But I program my mind – because everything you think puts an imprint in your mind – that one day, maybe next life, I’ll have no wish for sleep. How marvelous.

 

So: enthusiasm is what we end up with by 1. going against the instinctive “I can’t be bothered!”; 2. not putting things off; and 3. reminding myself that “I can do it!” 

 

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