Free Your Pen

Buddhist Writing Prompt: Train in the Three Difficulties

Train in the three difficulties is about dealing with your bad habits and difficult emotions. The original lojong slogan is the same and refers to the difficulties of breaking free of the behaviour that holds you back.

The three difficulties are the three ways your habits can cause you problems. First is the difficulty of seeing your habits. If you want to change your mental and emotional habits, you have to notice what they are and catch them in action. But this isn’t easy because they’re hidden and you don’t notice what you’re doing until it’s too late.

The second difficulty is to break your habits once you’ve noticed them. Habits can be stubborn. No matter how hard you try to stop doing something, there you are doing it again. You need to interrupt the cycle of reaction, perhaps by doing something else. Shift your focus and replace the bad habit with a good habit.

The third difficulty is that once you’ve let your bad habit go, it will tend to come back. You keep reacting the same way again and again, even though you know you don’t want to. The only way to deal with this is to keep practising, keep letting it go. Remind yourself that you want to be free of this bad habit and keep doing your best.

Apply this slogan to your writing practice by noticing all the habits that stop you from writing and resolve to break them. Your bad habits and neurotic tendencies may be small or large, but if you keep allowing them to control your choices you’ll never achieve your writing goals.

So the first step is to identify exactly what you’re doing and how you’re leading yourself astray. This isn’t easy and you can’t do it by simply deciding to do so. Every day you’ll need to confront and challenge yourself to not give in to your bad habits.

If you want to write, you also need to create a habit of writing. And the best way to do that is to write every day, regardless how you feel about it. Just write something. Anything. Even if you write about how you don’t want to write anything, you’ll be giving yourself a positive message through your actions.

You can take control of your mind and stop it from being hijacked by negative habits and doubts. But only if you practice. Beyond that, there’s only one thing you need to do: Keep writing!

Your writing prompt this weekend: In your slogan journal, list all your bad habits. Be honest with yourself – nobody else has to see your list.

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


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