Mindfulness is the root of all the methods that tame the mind. First it focuses the mind. Then it eases the mind. Finally it is the luminous nature, beyond thoughts.
– Patrul Rinpoche
We should take a moment to reflect on our Dharma practice from when we began practicing up until now. Have our afflictive emotions decreased since that time? Are we less angry, less dramatic, and less extreme? Are we less worried about the behavior of others and more mindful about our own behavior? Has our self-attachment decreased? Are we experiencing more clarity and stability in the mind? Are we able to practice more?
If, after making this examination, we feel that we are progressing pretty well, then it would be good to keep at Dharma practice just the way we have been. If we examine ourselves and then think: “I haven’t changed as much as I should have as a result of practicing this long,” it would be good to evaluate and reflect on ways that we could change.
Tibetan Buddhists say “the mind is not hidden from us” – in other words, we are the only ones who can really see the qualities of the mind. It is the same idea we express in English when we say that no one knows us better than we know ourselves. We are with ourselves constantly, and only we have the ability to discern our true motivations. However, self-attachment and the ego are very seductive. It is very easy to be lured into thinking, based on our self-attachment, that “I’m doing really well. I’m a great practitioner.” It is easy to not be objective in evaluating how our practice is going and what we are like as human beings. For example, it is difficult to reflect on situations as an outsider and consider how people perceive us. If we engaged in this mental exercise, we might start to have a different idea about who we are as compared to the person that we typically imagine ourselves to be.