The negative habits and afflictions which we have in this life did not appear all of a sudden. They can be traced back uncountable eons, from which time we have carried them as they pile up like a mountainous garbage dump. Even when we relocate, the smell is ever present. The purpose of learning Buddhism is to eliminate this karma as opportunities naturally arise to do so, as it is impossible to eliminate such a saturating karmic stench in a short period of time. While we practice to transform these habits, we must simultaneously observe them. Through this gradual practice and process of elimination, these redundant habits naturally fall away and disappear. We don’t need to take aim at destroying any particular habit, looking for the same instant relief we would get by removing a fish bone lodged in our throat. On the contrary, we must value our habitual patterns and the time that they accompany and interact with us, giving us the chance to learn. The moment that you realize which habitual pattern it is that is tying you in knots, is the moment you become aware of where it is that your afflictions arise. At this time you need to loosen the reins in order to get a better grip on them, like a cat hot on the trail of a mouse, needing only to wait for the mouse to stick out its head. The time to catch your prey depends upon your own mind – this is the true meaning of awareness. And only in this way will you get the chance to practice the method called “knowing without thoughts.”
We must remain thankful of our afflictions and habitual patterns, for without the opportunities that they provide, we practitioners, in search of our own minds, would never have the chance to introspect upon our self-nature or reflect inwards and observe ourselves. The most precious and rare distinction between practitioners and ordinary folk is that practitioners regularly and clearly observe these perfect defects (habitual patterns) which always keep them company, able to remain unruffled and handle them with skill and ease. You will not feel in the least distressed by the poisons which exist in your body, mouth (speech), or mind. You will not feel irritable or impatient and intolerant, becoming uneasy and nervous. On the contrary, you will be capable of dancing gracefully with these wolves, waiting for the moment to turn them into docile sheep. This is what we would call the successful transformation (of habitual patterns), to turn an assault into a triumph. When we encounter such a situation, it actually doesn’t matter how we counteract or practice. In the time that we coexist and interact with our afflictions, the afflictions and poisons will, without the space in which to shock or ruffle us, transform and purge themselves of their negative energy. This actually increases the positive spiritual power of our self-nature, which in the end is unified with the five wisdoms of Buddha (wisdom of dharmadhatu, mirror-like wisdom, wisdom of equality, wisdom of discernment, and all-accomplishing wisdom).
From Shang Longrik Gyatso Rinpoche