The second kind of power is diligence. You are capable of coming back to your best and highest self, but you must maintain this practice. Don’t allow yourself to get distracted and forget to practice. Practice regularly, daily, with support of your family, friends, and community – this is diligence. If you practice sitting meditation every day, walking meditation every day, mindful breathing every day, mindful eating every day, your practice is nourished, steadily, continuously, and this is the second source of power. You are able to practice mindfulness, but your motivation is not to prove that you are able to do it. The point is to practice for your well-being and enjoyment. You simply practice, and you do it every day.
There are four aspects of diligence. The first is that when negative emotions haven’t manifested in your mind, you don’t give them a chance to manifest. In Buddhist psychology, we describe our consciousness as having two layers, two levels. The lower layer is called store consciousness, and the upper layer is called mind consciousness. Mind consciousness is our normal, waking mind; store consciousness is our unconscious mind.
Store consciousness is like the land, the ground, with many seeds preserved in it. In our store consciousness there are seed of joy, forgiveness, mindfulness, concentration, insight, and equanimity. But there also seeds of anger, hate, despair, and so on. All these seeds are kept by our store consciousness. One of the functions of the store consciousness is to maintain these seeds.
When a seed is watered in our store consciousness, it manifests as an energy in our mind consciousness and becomes a mental formation. You have a seed of anger, but when the seed of anger is asleep, dormant in your store consciousness, you don’t feel angry. However, when the seed is touched, when it is turned on, it becomes a mental formation called anger, and you feel the energy of anger arise. We can envision mind consciousness as a living room and store consciousness as a basement. If we water a seed of joy, that seed will manifest itself on the upper level of mind consciousness, making the living room beautiful. If we water the seed of anger or hatred, it will make the living room of our mind a hell for us and our loved ones.
We all have a seed of anger, a seed of despair, and the seed of jealousy in us. If you live in a negative environment, the environment can trigger these seeds. If you live in a positive environment, then the seeds of craving, violence, hate, and anger are not touched, not watered easily. So it is wise for you to choose a good environment that will prevent these negative seeds from being touched often. You should not allow other people around you to touch these seeds, and you should not allow yourself to water them.
When you read an article full of violence or watch a violent television program or film, you turn on the seed of violence. The first step of diligence is not to turn on these negative seeds and not to allow the environment to turn them on. Diligence here means the practice of selective watering. So if negative seeds in store consciousness haven’t manifested, keep them down there, don’t let them get watered. In your daily life, be careful not to give these seeds a chance to manifest. Don’t suppress them, just don’t give them a chance. In your community, in your family, expose yourself only to sounds and sights that will help you touch the wholesome elements within you. Try not to expose yourself to sights and sounds that stimulate the seed of craving or the seed of anger in you. You need diligence to practice this, and you may need a community or group of friends with similar values to help you create a good environment. You can encourage your partner, your children, and your friends to help you protect yourself. And you can also protect them by creating an environment where they don’t have to be in touch with things that water their negative seeds.
Thich Nhat Hanh ‘The art of power’