Watch Yourself


Be a little wary of your mind, especially of your default, automatic feelings, thoughts and responses.

Left to it’s own, the mind can be a great troublemaker. The ego is concerned for self only. It does not live for others. It lives for safety and gratification, not love and fulfillment. It generates greed and anger. The ego acts selfishly, even at the expense of others. The ego lacks humility. The ego runs on fear, not love.

Vigilance is called for, even when we feel we are acting virtuously. Virtue, if taken too far, can lead to vice:

• To act rightly invites self-righteousness.
• To succeed invites smugness or complacency.
• To fight for the right invites viciousness.
• To attempt to influence others invites becoming dogmatic and overly simplistic.
• To appreciate our talents invites vanity.
• To witness evil invites hatred.
• To exercise power invites corruption.
• To achieve invites the sin of pride.
• To expect what is due us invites entitlement and can poison gratitude.
• To be self-confident invites arrogance.

Even when we are able to be a channel for the love and compassion that make up our true nature, we live under great temptation.

To guard our humility and our capacity to love, we need to practice watching the mind carefully, lovingly, acceptantly, with a half-smile. Recognize that you are not your automatic attitudes, thoughts, and feelings—these are all just phenomena that arise in your awareness. This is mindfulness. We practice loving awareness of that which is unskillful or destructive (some might say evil) within others and ourselves. Paradoxically, practicing loving acceptance of our mind frees us to act with humility and love. Mindfulness enables us to love freely, as seeing is freeing.

In mindfulness, we are silently asking, “What is this?” There is a certain wariness of motive; a loving mistrust of what may at the surface seem noble intentions. We are never as virtuous as we think we are. All of us suffer from some degree of self-delusion. Our motives are almost always mixed. Rarely are they pure. We do well to have an abiding sense of self-doubt and self-suspicion, so that we can be attuned to the arising of self-delusion.

Mindfulness coupled with caution and restraint requires gentle, persistent discipline over a lifetime. It is a way of being throughout the days of our lives. It is a life practice. Couple mindfulness with the natural desire that then arises to do the next right thing. This practice protects you from living reflexively—and potentially destructively—out of your default mode. Then you will experience the joy and fulfillment of being a channel for your true self.

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