It is almost inevitable that discouragement will arise, from time to time. Perhaps pain, illness, or unemployment creates a difficult time in our lives. Perhaps we apply ourselves to our meditation, but find progress much slower than we had hoped. How do you prevent discouragement from stopping you on this path of awakening?
I’m teaching in France this week, and it is raining. Many retreatants are in tents—conducive conditions for discouragement. But from another perspective it is the joyful perception of a dark sky, a patient perception of wet grass, the soft sound of water on tents, and the precious opportunity to be practicing dhamma in this life.
How do you cheer your mind when things don’t turn out the way that you hoped? Some traditional suggestions include meeting with wise friends, reflecting on the virtuous qualities of people that we respect, listening to dhamma teachings that inspire perseverance, cultivating patience and equanimity with conditions as they are, looking for the good in the situation, and contemplating that all conditioned things change.
I am fond of this teaching by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama:
Never Give up
No matter what is going on
Never Give up
Develop the heart
Too much energy is spent developing the mind instead of the heart.
Not just to your friends but to everyone
Work for peace,
in your heart and in the world
Work for peace.
And I say again,
Never give up
No matter what is happening
No matter what is going on around you.
Never give up.