Facing My Selfish Nature While Improving in Managing My Time
(Minghui.org) I'd like to share the process of recognizing and getting rid of layers of my egotistical nature, in the form of the attachment to time. Writing this sharing has been a precious chance to review my path of cultivation in the past year and to dig deeper the tests I didn’t really pass many years ago, thus gaining new understandings.
Becoming a Cultivator
As an everyday person, my biggest fear was that one day I’d have to die. For several years, this notion led me to become very pessimistic. I attended the university in my hometown in Italy, studying social and economic issues. I realized the bad shape of society and grew concerned and hot-tempered because most of those around me didn’t seem to realize the seriousness of the ecological and social decay around us.
In the end, I became apathetic, I frequently thought, “Why should I bother? I will die and lose everything in the end.” I couldn’t contain this fear which was hurting badly my relationship with my family and friends. I was disrespectful and cynical and confrontational. I was sure I knew better than everyone else and that no one else was able to understand me. I started drinking heavily and doing drugs, something that made things even worse.
During that period I also developed some ailments such as a bladder infection that was very painful when using the restroom, plus the knee problems I had for a couple of years worsened dramatically. All of this increased my anxiety and bad mood, I felt like going away, I wanted to start anew, far from everyone.
I started practicing Falun Dafa in 2006 while living in another country. Everything changed for the better. I read Zhuan Falun, the main text of Falun Dafa in two days and wanted to read it again. It was a truly wonderful feeling, even though I couldn’t grasp why.
It took me several months to read Master’s teachings in chronological order. I remember not having any specific intention, I was just thirsty for knowledge and wanted to read more and more. I had a lot of time available since I had quit my job and was traveling. For a few months I basically studied the Fa and practiced the five exercises. Little by little I accepted Master teachings, the requirement to improve one’s moral character, and followed a traditional way of conduct. My temper changed, I started to listen more and talk less, my fear of the future was crumbling away. I stopped drinking and smoking. I thought that as long as I have Dafa I’ll be ok. The illnesses disappeared and I was able to sit in the full lotus position, something unthinkable before.
Doing the Three Things
After studying Master's teachings related to Dafa disciple’s responsibility to do the three things I felt a new phase had begun. When I accepted Master’s requirement to clarify the truth, I immediately became eager to participate and do something. I didn’t know it at that time, but my egotistical nature was going to be exposed through the attachment to time.
“I hope that after going home everyone will make the best use of his or her time for genuine cultivation practice.” (Zhuan Falun)
This passage of the Fa recently struck me like never before. I’d say I felt Master's boundless compassion. My understanding is that Master’s hope is that Dafa disciples will be able to use the limited time allowed during the Fa-rectification period to fulfill the vows we signed. Master gave me many opportunities to detect many aspects of it to improve in my cultivation. Thank you Master for not letting up on me when my conduct was [not in line with the Fa] and thank you to all fellow practitioners for putting up with me.
I remember asking myself: how can I make the best use of my time, as Master asked us? Since I didn’t know much about truth clarification projects established by practitioners to expose the evil and clarify the truth, I thought the most efficient way was to give out flyers. My mindset was that the more flyers I could hand out the better.
One of the first activities I joined to clarify the truth was to give out flyers to passersby. The first time I went to the local Chinatown, the place was packed with tourists and locals. After a while a Chinese person took a bunch of flyers from my hands, then he ripped them into pieces and threw them in my face. Then he left quietly.
It all happened like it was in those slow-motion video sequences. I was in shock for a few seconds then my demon nature showed up, I could hardly control myself from running after the guy, and bad thoughts crept up into my brain, “How you dare? I’m here to save you and this is how you react? Maybe I should punch you in the face so you will listen to me.”
After I calmed down I was even more shocked! I was wondering how I could have such a reaction. I thought it was my competitive nature that got exposed, again the notion that I knew better than that person, so he had to listen to me.
“Because the cultivation of Shan can generate great, benevolent compassion, and when compassion develops one will find all beings suffering, the Buddha School thus develops an aspiration to offer salvation to all beings.”( Zhuan Falun)
It wasn’t an expression of the compassion a Dafa disciple should have in order to give sentient beings the opportunity to learn the truth, rather the human mentality of showing off, wanting to be listened to, because I’m better, so I’m entitled in doing what I want. In this case, my hidden thought was to place a flyer into people’s hand so I could move on to the next person. I wasn’t really paying attention to the quality of my actions, I was just interested in quantity. I wanted to accumulate de (virtue) because I thought I had obtained the Fa late.
Now, I see that episode as an expression of the attachment to time. Looking back at the various activities I participated in these past years, a pattern emerged: either in a group activity or by myself, the results were poor when the mentality was narrow, focused on just the activity at the end, without minding about how to improve in the future to reach a better result. It’s a short-term mentality.
Master told us:
“You all want to find a quick fix, don’t you? You’re looking for instantaneous results. That kind of thinking is the product of the wicked CCP’s culture. Do a good job with whatever it is you do. And as you go about doing it, it will be your heart and mind, rather than your success, that count.” (“Fa Teaching Given at the 2016 New York Fa Conference”)
So having a short term mentality is a communistic mentality. Since Master told us that communism is now present everywhere, not only in China, it is imperative for me to recognize these elements and get rid of them.
Long Term Mentality
Recognizing how the short-term mentality was a critical aspect of my egoistic nature, something that I needed to rectify, gave me the confidence to further work on this matter.
We know Master has been extending the time for us, to make it possible for sentient beings to have an opportunity to learn the truth. It’s for this reason that I see time as the most important resource we have, and Master’s requirement is to use it wisely to have a better and better effect. To do this is necessary for us to get together and work on projects that can reach a wider and wider audience.
Last summer, after reading ‘A Dialogue with Time,’ from Essentials For Further Advancement,
“Master: What problems do you find my disciples to still have?Divine Being: Your disciples can be divided into two groups.Master: What are the two groups?Divine Being: One group is able to painstakingly make progress in the Fa by following your requirements. This group is quite good. The other group is attached to human matters, is unwilling to give them up, and is unable to steadfastly make progress.Master: Yes, I’ve seen that.”
I had two understandings: one is that time is on our side, a divine being playing a positive role in Master’s Fa-rectification so there’s no reason for me to be concerned about the duration of this phase, as long as I can be diligent in doing the three things. This really helped me a lot to put my mind at ease.
The second understanding I had was that in this lecture Master is showing us Dafa Disciples how important it is to come to an agreement with another party when coordination and cooperation is needed.
My personal experience tells me that I’ve been in both groups, because of my state of cultivation. Looking back, it happened to me to not respect Master’s most basic requirements.
As an example, I had a phase in which I couldn’t keep my mind empty during Fa study. Working full time for the media in New York I was constantly thinking about the tasks I had to take care of. It was like a movie playing in a loop that couldn’t stop. I felt very concerned about this, as we know that being in that state is disrespectful to Master and a waste of time. We are supposed to improve during Fa study, but if we keep thinking about other things we can’t absorb the Fa, hence wasting time.
It was a vicious circle and the more concerned I was, the worse the situation.The main issue is that I wasn’t looking within. I then analyzed the thoughts that were popping up during Fa study. At first, it seemed nothing special was going on: I had new responsibilities at my job at the media, and I was approaching the new tasks with a positive attitude. I was telling myself: “I want to do a good job, it’s for clarifying the truth.”
Then while reciting Lun Yu this passage stood out,
“Any life that turns away from Dafa is truly corrupt. Any person who can align with Dafa is truly a good person,...” (“Lun Yu” from Zhuan Falun)
I saw that, “I want to do a good job” was actually an excuse that was hiding selfish thoughts and pursuits to, “I want to do this stuff quickly, so I can move on and do something more interesting, so I can have more time to go shopping, so I can have more time to rest,” etc.
Yes, we have to do a good job, regardless of the role we are playing in society, even more the case if we are working full time on a project established by Dafa disciples to clarify the truth. The thing is that I was using my understanding of Master’s teachings as an excuse to neglect the very basis of a cultivator: to study the Fa without intention, to constantly assimilate to the Fa, so to improve in this deviated environment that is today's society and be able to play my role in Fa-rectification.
“...if you do not think about good things, at least you should not think about bad things. It is best if you do not think about anything.”(Zhuan Falun)
My experience is that when facing responsibilities, tasks, working on a project, etc., we should avoid thinking negatively, as our thoughts can affect this superficial reality. Having positive thoughts can be helpful, but can also lead to challenges because of one’s emotions and notions. The best is indeed not to think about anything which means to stay unaffected and apply one’s wisdom to complete the task, without mixing in human factors.
The True Thoughts
One experience that really helped me to improve and in shredding layers of my attachment to time happened about one and a half years ago, after attending a Shen Yun Orchestra concert.
It was a tough moment. In the previous 10 days I was having nonstop conflicts with fellow practitioners, because of misunderstandings in communications, and I was blaming them for not being able to understand the most simple things. Plus a project to clarify the truth I thought was very important got canceled abruptly: that came as a shock, and I thought it was one of the most irrational decisions.
I remember feeling numb and with too many thoughts at the same time, a weird state. I didn’t even want to go to the concert. I then sat down with my eyes closed, and asked Master for help to strengthen my wisdom.
After the concert it happened to me to meet one of the practitioners involved in the project that got cancelled and my first reaction was “I should comfort him, I’m sure he must feel down after all the efforts he put into it.” We had coffee and it turned out that it was him encouraging me. My poor state of cultivation was evident and he told me something like “I feel I did the best within the extent of my responsibility. I felt sad sure, but I don’t want to get stuck in sadness.”
It was a reminder not to waste time, but to move on and keep doing what we are supposed to do.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I was laying on my back, gazing in the darkness and again that feeling of numbness and too many thoughts showed up. I was growing increasingly restless, even more worried that I was going to feel tired the day after at work. Then something happened. I was somehow in a different environment, like sitting in the front row of a gigantic cinema, staring at a screen. Everything was completely dark and I felt like I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even think. I tried to but it didn’t work out. It was getting pretty interesting overall. I was part of the cinema but also looking at it which was a pleasant sensation.
What happened next is that I saw something looking like soft bricks floating around. I’d say from top moving down but I’m not 100% sure. It was quite a relaxing view, then something struck me: those were thoughts, coming from different places, and they were about to enter my brain.
I don’t know how but I was able to recognize my true thoughts, the ones from my main spirit. I started feeling uncomfortable looking at all the bricks/thoughts floating around me that were not actually mine. Then the whole thing ended, it was early morning and I went straight to the practice site. During the practice something crossed my mind, I said to myself, “It seems dealing with all those thoughts is a huge waste of time, isn’t it? Let’s not accept them, just dispel them as soon as they get too close.”
This experience made me learn how to recognize and say “no” to the thoughts that aren't necessarily mine, and also to become more professional in my work environment. The goal is to avoid wasting time.
Having the Heart to Improve
Master told us many times that the media run by Dafa disciples must take successful companies as an example and learn from their practices. I asked myself, how do successful people manage their time and their daily schedule?
At that time I was getting increasingly busier with different tasks, but no matter what, I had the feeling it wasn’t enough, that I wasn’t doing a good job and that I was wasting time. Then it happened to me to read a couple of articles about this topic, and found out that successful people have certain traits in common: among them one thing is they are able to assess their priorities and to say “no” to what is not important and that might play the role of interfering with their priorities.
I realized the habit of saying yes without assessing the situation to both everyday persons and fellow practitioners in order to please them and to have them think I’m a good person and a good cultivator. Again the mindset was about getting something immediately, without thinking about the impact of the other activity I was working on in the long term. It was like going back to the same mindset I had when giving out flyers, the more things I do, the more sentient beings I might be able to save, the more virtue I can accumulate.
I think this has been a major loophole in my cultivation for several years and the old forces used it as an excuse to deliver all those negative thoughts into my brain, thus slowing me down in my doing the three things, especially when it comes to my inability of being clearheaded during Fa study.
I did my best to be rational in this regard and at the same time having the heart to save people. I then realized that those successful everyday people are using techniques to manage their time. I read some books, I tried some of those methods but didn’t notice any improvement, and I was getting increasingly confused.
Then everything changed after watching the videos published on the Shen Yun website, where the artists talk about their experiences. It made me realize that they are using certain techniques as well, but the main thing is the heart behind those techniques. Everyday people can use them to dance and sing as well, but the power of Shen Yun in saving people is so big because their hearts have the wish to save people.
I felt it was a great encouragement from Master, a hint to be sure to keep my righteous thoughts in place when working on the media project, which means to have in my mind and my heart the wish to listen and to collaborate with fellow cultivators, so to indeed use my time wisely during the Fa rectification.
I’d like to end my sharing with a poem from Master that helped improve my relationship with coworkers
“Don't Argue”Don’t argue when people argue with youCultivation is looking within for the causeWanting to explain just feeds the attachmentBreadth of mind, unattached, brings true insight(“Don't Argue” from Hong Yin III)
Thank you Master and thank you fellow practitioners”