by Ven. Thubten Chodron
When my mind falls prey to suffering,
It is the weapon of destructive karma turning upon me
For definitely causing turbulence in the hearts of others;
From now on I will take all suffering upon myself.
Many people in developed countries have much greater mental suffering than physical suffering. They are plagued by depression, anxiety, fear, worry—feelings that arise when we fail to achieve our aims or believe we are being rejected, abandoned, or treated unfairly.
When we experience mental anguish, we can use this as an opportunity to learn how our mind works. First, rather than focus on the story behind your feeling, just pay attention to the mental feeling of unhappiness. Be aware of how it differs from physical suffering. Then, be aware of your reactions to mental suffering: we dislike it, get angry, blame others.
Instead of repeatedly playing out our responses to unpleasant mental feelings, we can adopt the perspective of this verse and view our mental suffering as the result of our own harmful actions, specifically causing turbulence in the hearts of others.
An effective way to transform mental anguish into the path to awakening is to take all [mental] suffering upon ourselves, and give others our mental joy. We do this through the taking-and-giving meditation.
While doing this meditation, one part of your mind may protest, “I don’t want anybody else’s mental pain; I can’t even handle my own. I want someone to take away my mental suffering.” That state of mind itself is suffering. Build up your courage by thinking, “I’m experiencing mental pain as a result of my own destructive karma. Since I’m experiencing this mental anguish anyway, may I take on the mental pain of everyone else.”
Take on the pain of people who are grieving the loss of dear ones and people who are fearful because they live in an unstable, war-torn country. Take on the misery of those with mental illness. Take on the pain of those whose trust has been betrayed. Do all of this happily. Use this pain to destroy the selfishness that motivated you to create the karma that brought about your own mental unhappiness.
Feel light and relaxed as you use others’ mental pain to destroy the self-preoccupation that keeps you stuck in your own mental pain and self-pity.