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Adjusting your motivation before practice

Tibetan ceremonies and lectures begin with a formal adjustment of motivation. Virtuous activity, such as attending a religious ceremony or engaging in meditation, should be initiated with the motivation to benefit other beings. When you start a session, you are apt to have been thinking within a narrow range, and thus your motivation has to be adjusted before you begin the practice.

There's magic when, before beginning a meditation, you extend the field of your motivation to many beings—as long as many individual beings appear to mind—because then the session will be connected to not just one small being, yourself, but to many others. As a result, its power will increase proportionately. This process requires time and practice for the implications to be brought home.

Meditation — motivation

Begin meditation by bringing just one person to mind and thinking, "I am beginning this session of meditation for your sake."

When you experience a feeling extending out to that person, take to mind another person and repeat the process. Do this with at least ten persons at the start of each session.

Start with people nearby. Don't make your altruistic intention so diffuse that it has no meaning, but slowly extend it on to your state or province and then to countries—the United States, Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia, China, Tibet, the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and so forth. If it becomes weak, come back and dedicate the value again to a smaller group, a few individuals, and then add "by extension everyone else."

If the field is "all sentient beings," and it's not many individual beings, the meditation will not have much force. When any individual appears to your mind, dedicate your compassionate endeavor for that person too. Then when you've directed altruism to many individuals and groups, “all" comes to have some meaning.

Whether meditating alone or with a group, reflect that what you are doing—no matter how insignificant you might think its force is—is to benefit the entire world. Even if the session doesn't produce much insight, the motivation with which you started is so powerful that it will still make a difference. It is guaranteed to succeed.