Buddha gave some simple yet effective advice for people who want to change themselves: Focus on your good features.

Most of us encounter various hurdles in life. It might be the growing number of weeds in your garden, a fungal infection in your body, or just a bad habit of yours. Usually, our initial reaction is to fight and try to eliminate these things. In contrast, Karma tells us that anything that’s due will inevitably come, so fighting doesn’t achieve anything other than to change the form of the problem.

Recently, a student of mine, who happened to know about permaculture, told me that the best way to get rid of harmful weeds is to introduce some beneficial weeds. Some time later, my doctor friend told me something similar for treating a yeast infection. He said the best way to eliminate harmful bacteria and fungi is not to fight them but rather to increase the number of beneficial microbes in our bodies instead. When beneficial bacteria and fungi increase in numbers, they occupy the living space and limit the spread of the harmful ones. Such methods are said to be ahimsa, meaning “to not injure” in Sanskrit, because they don’t actually hurt the “harmful” microbes while getting rid of them. The harmful bacteria and fungi simply react to the lack of nutritional sources and slow their rate of reproduction. The infection subsides, yet nothing is harmed or destroyed.

Buddha recommends doing the same thing to cope with the negative situations we experience. The venerable Buddha recommends people with bad habits to focus on their good features rather than fighting with their bad ones. The same thing applies when dealing with other people as well: We should emphasize their good features rather than their negative traits. This way, we can gently help the people around us to achieve a better existential state.

Whenever my slender, 80-year-old mother visits my home, she looks at my spouse and me and says, “Dears, you must think about food all day.” It’s interesting, because whenever my mother visits, all we can think about is food.

Ahimsa can require a little more effort, but it’s surely the only perfect solution. It’s painless as well. Don’t focus on the bad traits of yourself, others, or situations. Naturally, you need to be aware of them in order to mitigate them, but don’t get obsessed with them. Focus on the good features. You’ll see yourself and your circumstances reach a better state in no time. This is the real meaning of wu-wei (the action of non-action) in Taoism.