Free Your Pen

Buddhist Writing Prompt: Practice the Four Methods

Practice the four methods gives you four practical ways of being in the world that encourage you to face difficult emotions and situations rather than avoid them. These methods should form the foundation of your mind training practice.

The original lojong slogan is: Four practices are the best of methods, and these are:

  1. Do good
  2. Avoid evil
  3. Welcome mishaps, or mistakes
  4. Pray, or be grateful for the teachings

In the simplest terms, this means you cultivate compassion and don’t cause suffering to yourself or others, while learning from your mistakes and seeking out the best guidance.

Underneath each of these methods is the idea of overcoming resistance. Instead of fighting against difficult circumstances, you turn towards them with compassion and acceptance. Resistance only makes things worse because the more you fight against something, the stronger it gets. So this slogan gives you four methods to overcome that resistance.

The first method is about doing good without hope of reward or recognition. So you’re not being nice and helping people because it’s good for your soul, even though it is good for your soul. You do good because it’s a natural expression of your true nature which is open and compassionate.

The second method is about avoiding anything that isn’t in your best interests. Stop doing things that cause you or others to suffer and try to change your bad habits into good ones.

The final two methods provide support for the first two. Mistakes can keep you on your toes and act as a wake-up call when you fall off the path and behave in a way that isn’t mindful. And the teachings remind you what you’re aiming for and provide support, as well as instant karma when things go wrong.

Apply this slogan to your writing practice by developing these methods to help you write and let go of anything that holds you back. The four methods for writers are:

  1. Write
  2. Avoid things that stop you from writing
  3. Learn from your mistakes
  4. Seek support

Your writing prompt this weekend: List all the things that stop you from writing – internal and external. Identify methods you can use to stop those things from stopping you. Write out a strategy in your slogan journal and put it into practice.

More in the book: Free Your Pen: Mind Training for Writers
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