Times are tough. We need a way to cope. Halfway measures probably won’t work. We need to really transform our minds—our hearts, our consciousness, our basic attitudes.
Such transformation has always been the province of spiritual practice, but these days cognitive science also tells us “the brain is plastic.” Our personalities, our default tendencies, our neuroses—they are not as fixed as we once thought they were. We are not the inevitable products of our genetics and childhoods. We can change.
The trick is that we have to work at it. Just as training the body takes more than proper equipment and good intentions—it takes repetitive work over time—training the mind/heart takes patience and practice. Compassion is the goal of such training. Surviving—and thriving—in troubled times requires compassion and the kindness, love, and resilience that it fosters. Caring for and working to benefit others is also the best thing we can do for ourselves. In the twelfth century, the Tibetan sage Geshe Chekawa Yeshe Dorje composed a text on the lojong, or “mind training” practices. Based on the Indian pandita Atisha’s original list of fifty-nine pithy sayings for repetitive practice, this text has been taught extensively ever since, and there are a number of translations and commentaries now available in English. It has become one of the best loved of all Buddhist teachings for generating compassion.