“Abandoning negative places, disturbing emotions gradually subside;
Being free from distraction, the practice of virtue spontaneously increases;
With brightened awareness one feels confidence in the Dharma;
To adhere to solitude is the practice of the bodhisattvas.”
- the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva. Verse 3.*
We need to be aware of where we’re going and what we’re doing. Sometimes in life we just do things and don’t give it much thought. The truth is that everything can be part of our spiritual journey. Actually everything is, whether we like it or not.
What do we mean when we say things like “Abandon negative places”?
Sometimes in life we feel trapped. In a job, in a relationship, in a social group, whatever. Rarely are we as trapped as we think we are. None of that really bind us. In the song “Already Gone” by the Eagles there is the line: “So oftentimes it happens that we live our lives in chains and we never even know we have the key.”
I love that line. It really says what I’m getting at. You are not trapped. You can empower yourself to get out of anything. That’s what we’re talking about here. Staying in a situation that doesn’t serve your growth gets in the way. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for to get ourselves out.
I’m being vague on purpose here. I can’t tell you what is or isn’t a negative place. I can’t tell you if your job or your friendships or your relationships are toxic. But you know. With just a little introspection you know exactly what situations would be good to get out of. Also, it’s true there are some outlier situations where people are really trapped. I do need to go out of my way to mention that. Speaking just for myself, I’ve felt like I was trapped and been wrong before. I have usually had more power to get out than I believed I had.
I think we can add habits to this too. What are the habits that keep us away from our spiritual journey? And then what habits can we add to our lives that inspire more practice?
The Ornament of Sutras says:
“The place where intelligent ones practice
Is well supplied, an excellent dwelling place,
An excellent soil, endowed with good companions,
And graced by yogic bliss.”