Train Your Mind: Don’t expect applause.

Judy Lief

The Mind-Training Slogans, Slogan #59

Each Friday, Acharya Judy Lief, teacher in the Shambhala tradition of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, has been commenting on one of Atisha's 59 mind-training (Tib. lojong) slogans, which serve as the basis for a complete practice. This is the final slogan.

Atisha (980-1052 CE) was an Indian adept who brought to Tibet a systematized approach to bodhicitta (the desire to awaken for the sake of all sentient beings) and loving-kindness, through working with these slogans. Judy edited Chogyam Trungpa's Training the Mind (Shambhala, 1993), which contains Trungpa Rinpoche's commentaries on the lojong ("mind-training") teachings.

Each entry includes a practice.

Read all the lojong slogans here.


59. Don’t expect applause.

Now that you have studied all these slogans, don’t expect anyone to congratulate you! In fact it is a good idea to look at how much we keep looking for recognition altogether. It can be embarrassing, but often, as soon as we do anything of note, it is as if we were little children at a playground shouting. “Watch me, mama! Look at me! Look what I can do!” And when whatever we have done is not acknowledged or recognized, how quickly we get puffy and upset.

This slogan gives us a chance to examine our whole relationship to approval and recognition, even fame. The idea is not that recognition in itself is a bad thing, or that we should not encourage or recognize others. It can be inspiring to see the kinds of creative works, intellectual insights, ingenious problem solving, and acts of heroism and kindness that people have accomplished: it can inspire us to do similar things. Especially in a world dominated by bad news and focus on the many problems we face, it is good to applaud people who do good. The problem arises when we expect our actions to be rewarded.

It is surprising how quickly our expectations trigger emotions such as anger, jealousy, righteous indignation, and self-pity. Instead of being able to appreciate what comes our way, we fester about how we didn’t get the praise or recognition we rightfully deserved. And if what we are doing is all about being seen, when we are not seen, the wind goes out of our sails and we founder.

Another problem with the hunt for approval is that it to gain approval you must buy in to the dominant values of the society around you. If what gets approval is getting rich, that is what you strive for; if it is beauty, that is what you obsess about; if it is power over others, that is what you focus on. The desperation for outer rewards goes hand-in-hand with an increasing sense of inner poverty. If you are successful in your quest for recognition, you may be able to ignore what you have given up to achieve it. If you are unsuccessful, you may simply blame the system. But in either case, since you have given over our power to others, you are left empty.

Today’s practice
When you notice you are expecting applause, explore what lies behind that expectation. Notice the subtle shift between when you have done something and when you begin to look around you for recognition.

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lashamrock's picture

Dear Judy,

I know that you don't expect applause, but I want to thank you for making Atisha's slogans so accessible. I also want to thank you for the practice suggestions.

Thank you, Tricycle, for making this wonderful teaching available!

Now the work begins!

With palms together, Dina

letting go's picture

the ego has a powerful influence on me...i'm slowly learning how to let go...i wonder if being raised buddhist at an early age makes the learning process easier

bodhisatvachic66's picture

I don't want applause, I just want to rest easy in my own mind. being a bit more self less makes me feel so much better with is a bit self ish in my own opinion. but "I" am happy as long as I try and be nice, do the best i can for as long as i am able. iiiiiiiiiiii :)

sschroll's picture

Thank you Camille.
I'll try it. I know very well story lines

Camille Martinez's picture

I am exploring the following approach:

Randomly during the day, I breathe in deeply. As I breathe out, I tell myself this is my last breath out. As I breathe out, I ask the questions, "Is this moment sufficient?", and capture with honesty my answer. I have discovered that I cannot answer "yes, 100% sufficient". And that is ok. What is most interesting is the discovery that where I sense a percentage of insufficiency, that is a point of beginning to recognize a story line with which I have bound myself. "What is my story line?" becomes my investigation.

My experience is I have an amazing ability to create story lines, and those story lines provide plenty of fuel for laughter.

Laughter has turned out to be a pretty good salve for my perceived sense of brokenness.

buddhabrats's picture

If you can not applaud yourself then you are in trouble, the only standard I hold myself up to is my own, the minute I start playing the external approval blame, I am instantly trapped back in the desire and aversion swamp and begin to suffer. Of course it is nice to get external approval but ironically it is the letting go of the attachment to it that allows one to actually get it, when we no longer need it. The warrior only gets courage after the battle, at the time he is terrified. It seems quite weird that this is the way it is, as we all thrive on positive reinforcement and shrivel under negative reinforcement. I deal with a lot of this in my book, at www.buddhabrats.com

To quote Ministry "the mind is a terrible thing to taste"

Adamas