Have you ever wondered why some affirmations don’t work? Some patterns of unhealthy thought–jealousy, anger, fear, unworthiness, anxiety–are so stubborn they are hard to tame by simple substitution. For these thoughts, the Buddha offers more forceful methods. “When there still arise patterns of unskillful thoughts, the danger that thoughts will cause pain and suffering should be clearly visualized. Then, naturally, like the abandonment of rotting garbage, the mind will turn from these thoughts and become steady, quiet, clear.” We can actually feel the danger when we are possessed by thoughts of jealousy and anger, or we are in the grip of anxiety. These tighten and stress our whole body. They keep us from rest. And when we consider acting on them, we know the results will be shameful and regrettable. It is important that we don’t judge or recriminate with ourselves when we see these thoughts; the practice is to simply set a powerful new intention. We can see that our thoughts are unbidden, impersonal, painful. Out of compassion for ourselves we can feel their danger. “Like rotten garbage,” says the Buddha, “we can put them down.” Still, some patterns of destructive thought are so strong that even more forceful measures are needed. The Buddha tells us to “deliberately and directly ignore these thoughts, turn away, giving no attention, as if shutting our eyes or quickly looking away from a disturbing and harmful sight.” And if such patterns continue, “the wildly unskillful thought stream should be gradually slowed and stilled by slowing the breath step by step as if gradually slowing one’s pace from a run to a walk to a standing.” We all know from experience when a “sticky” thought just won’t go away. Our mind gets in a groove and we don’t know what to do so we just stay there. Ignoring the thoughts or walking mindfully and breathing slowly may reduce them. If not, then the Buddha recommends a final and rarely used last resort. “Such thoughts must be met with force, teeth clenched, tongue pressed against the roof of the mouth, determined to constrain, crush, and subdue these thoughts as if constraining a violent criminal. In this way does one become a master of thought and its courses. In this way one becomes free.”

These are not sweet “self-esteem” practices because the destructive habits of mind can be tenacious. There is an element of fierce determination and self-discipline needed to take on the realities of the suffering world. – SD


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About mountainsisters

WELCOME TO OUR BLOG WHERE WOMEN SHARE THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND CREATIVITY ON THE PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT. We are two women sharing our thoughts, reflections and creativity. Stormy My name is Stormy and I have spent the last 20 years working on my spiritual growth and enlightenment. I still have a long way to go, but with your help I know I’ll keep growing, learning and expanding. Shar My name is Shar and I am a meditation, yoga and Qigong practitioner. I love to cook. I am vegan. I love to walk in nature, sing, drum, play guitar, write and spend time with family and friends.


  1. Jane Johnson says :

    I love the Buddha’s thoughts on stubborn negative thoughts. Very helpful. Stormy

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