The Four Right Attitudes

What happens to the environment in our mind when we feel hate?

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What happens to the environment in our mind when we feel hate toward people greedily using their power for their own benefit, causing harm and destruction to others and the environment? Stress sky rockets. Our body tightens up. We are emotionally flooded with cortisol and adrenalin and plagued by catastrophic thoughts. We can’t stand it. We burn out, blow up, numb out.

The Four Right Attitudes come from the yoga meditation and Buddhist traditions where they are called the Brahmā-vihāras or Parikarmas. They outline four preferable attitudes to support stability of one’s mind so it can become fit for happiness and joy. The mind is made pleasing, clean, happy, settled and clear by the practice of these four.

The fourth one, neutrality toward those who are doing bad things, might seem out of reach and maybe not even make sense. It isn’t fair. They must be stopped. We can’t afford to keep our heads in the sand. The world is in a mess. These statements are actually true.

We rant in our mind, on Facebook, and to other people. We’re glued to our screens and are outraged by the latest news. We feel helpless and powerless to make changes. This is also true. There is a high cost personally in a toxic internal environment, and to make it worse, raging or numbing don’t work to change anything.

How can we sustain long term action to stimulate and support real change without burning out? Part of the answer is to recognize and minimize our internal state of threat and fear.

Non-attachment is closely related to equanimity or neutrality. It does not mean we don’t care. We care deeply. We do need to take action in many ways that could range from creating a kind environment in our home and family, to global activism, to our own personal healing, to volunteering. Truthfully, we need a revolution to take back our communities from people, governments and financial systems that have seized control through unethical laws and practices.

We don’t have to look far to become discouraged AND we can see positive examples everywhere from the school crossing guard with a smile for each child to Jacinda Ardern, the president of New Zealand, whose budget for government spending has to fall into one of 5 categories of wellness.

We engage with people and work together towards our common vision. The most sustainable way to do this is when when we are balanced and steady ourselves. When we are happy and cultivating lives that are meaningful, even as we identify and tear down what is not ethical and good.

Read through the four and consider how you might implement these in your own life.

Purification, clarity, or joyfulness of the mind is gained by:

  1. Cultivating friendship and love for those who are happy and comfortable. Maitrī is the quality of friendship and love, warmth — the sunshine of love and warmth.
  2. Compassion for those who are unhappy; not indifference. Compassion is an antidote to our inclination to hurt others.
  3. Joy for those who are good/ have virtue and merit; not being sarcastic or speaking ill of them, not being spiteful or malicious about their virtue. Friendship and love is the antidote to false attraction and attachment as well as to jealousy.
  4. Equanimity/ neutrality/ indifference toward those who do not have virtue and merit, have a wrong or bad attitude; neither consent and support nor show hatred. Indifference, is an antidote to two of our weaknesses: one is hatred and vengefulness, which is the opposite of forgiveness. And the other is our inability to bear something, the lack of forbearance — you can’t bear, you can’t tolerate another person’s acts or another person’s bad acts towards you.
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