In Eight Steps to Happiness, Geshe-la says:
When we look at external things we can usually distinguish those that are useful and valuable from those that are not. We must learn to look at our mind in the same way. Although the nature of our root mind is pure and clear, many conceptual thoughts arise from it, like bubbles arising within an ocean or rays of light arising from a single flame. Some of these thoughts are beneficial and lead to happiness both now and in the future, whereas others lead to suffering and the extreme misery of rebirth in the lower realms. We need to keep a constant watch over our mind and learn to distinguish between the beneficial and harmful thoughts that are arising moment by moment. Those who are able to do this are truly wise.
If we use meditation to become familiar with the pure, clear nature of our mind, then we will learn how to distinguish between positive and negative states of mind from our own experience. Geshe Chekawa calls recognizing our delusions one of the ‘three difficulties’ because generally our negative minds come disguised as our friends: we think attachment is encouraging us to have fun, for example, when actually it is undermining our ability to enjoy the things around us. Really try taking a look at what your mind is doing: say you are contentedly sitting on a train reading the paper, and someone drop-dead gorgeous comes and sits down next to you. Immediately you feel tougue-tied and self conscious; you worry you have food stuck in your teeth; they ask your name and you can’t remember what it is. Attachment has destroyed our peace of mind.
How did that happen? We let it. We allowed attachment into our mind.
When we decide good/bad with regard to external things, most of the time we’re just going ‘ohhh, pretty.’ We’re not thinking about nutritional value, we just like the coloured icing; the sun-roof grabs our attention more than the airbags. If something is ugly, we’re not interested. So, I think it would be useful to see how ugly our negative states of mind really are. Imagine your delusions were to take on physical form – what would they look like? What is the real face of anger or selfishness? My delusions tend to look a bit like the orcs from Lord of the Rings: not someone you’d want hanging out in your front room. But, when delusions come knocking at the doorway of our mind, what do we do? We let them in!
When a monster comes calling, learn to slam the door in their face. Once you’ve invited them in, they will be one of those house-guests who just won’t leave – we know how hard it is to shift a bad mood – so don’t let them in in the first place. We need to protect our inner peace by making delusions stay outside the door – just see our negative train of thought for the demon it is and say ‘no way am I giving you the time of day.’ Leave the monsters outside, and our peace of mind within.