Ask yourself, what am I doing about my anger, my attachment, my pride, my jealousy? These are the things we should check in our daily lives. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This quote is about our negative emotions and impulses. It asks us if we’ve monitored them, and asks what we’re going to do about them. We are all human, and all have an issue with these emotions, even if only rarely.
I believe this quote has great merit, as it asks us to continue to examine ourselves, and specifically our darker side. It asks us not just to see what might be lurking in the dark corners, but to then consider what we are going to do about it.
The quote concludes by imploring us to do this exercise daily. And I thought I was a tough taskmaster! But seriously, this quote is reminding us that if we keep after things, over time we can make ourselves much better. Yes, it might take a little time, but I believe it is worth the effort.
Why is regular self-examination important?
How can you fix a problem you don’t know exists? Once you know it exists, how can you fix it if you don’t know what the cause is? If you don’t monitor your progress, how would you know if it was better or not? Those aren’t rhetorical questions, even though they could be.
Can you imagine how much of a mess your life would be if you treated everything in your life that way? Does that sound like it would be pleasant, or would most things end up becoming an emergency before you noticed them and started to try to fix them?
By doing it regularly you might actually catch something before it becomes an emergency. I imagine you’ve had times when you found something before it went bad, and were glad thinking of what you would have been facing if you’d not noticed in time.
I believe that’s why we need to be doing this regularly. Not necessarily every moment of every day, but just a few moments first thing in the morning or last thing at night. perhaps you could examine different aspects of your life on different days. That’s how I do it, at least.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Take a moment and ponder what the results would be if you did your job without examining what was going right or wrong. What about your relationships, how would things go if you didn’t examine them from time to time? If you just tried to fix things without knowledge of what was broken?
I think that covers the self-examination part fairly well. But why should it be done regularly? We have established that never is too infrequent. Is once a year often enough? I don’t think so. How many of your New Year’s Resolutions make it to summer, much less the end of the year?
What about monthly? What could possibly go wrong in a month? A lot, at least by my experience, how about yours? How about a week, or even twice weekly? Now we’re starting to get some resistance from the other half, the effort required to do the self-examination, right?
At the extreme end, we never do anything other than self-examination. That isn’t going to leave much time for a life, so that’s as silly a solution as never, right? So we’re down to something between monthly (if we’re lucky) and every couple of days, if we keep it quick.
As I mentioned earlier, you could take a little time each day, and look at a different part of your life. It would take a few days to get back to the same aspect, and it keeps the time required to do a good job to something manageable. At least it works for me.
The quote gives us a starting list, so grab some paper and write those down. What other things in your life are holding you back? What other habits, emotions, etc…, are impeding your progress towards becoming the best possible you? Add them to the list.
Next to each, write down how often you think you should monitor them. Every day, twice a week, once a month? The more damaging items should probably be monitored more closely, as should the more volatile. Take a moment and see if you can make some kind of schedule for when you will check on them.
Now, what will you do, once you have examined yourself? When was the last time you got angry, and what can you do to prevent or minimize the next occurrence? If you are keeping track, you have a better idea of what did and didn’t work, and if you’re improving or not.
You can just live your life from moment to moment, or you can take a little time and assess how things are going and try to plan your route. Nothing goes exactly to plan, but you have a little better shot at getting to where you want if you know where you are and are taking steps to get there, right?
To me, that is what this quote is all about. How close are you to where you want to be in your spiritual self? Might it be time to take a moment and examine your life? Will you make it a habit?