September 13, 2013 at 5:34 am #42173
As I continue on this journey of self-discovery and emotional mastery, I’m beginning to appreciate the difference between what my mind is thinking and sometimes telling me to do or say versus what it is I actually want to do or say.
The mind chatters away like a monkey on steroids telling you nasty things about yourself and constantly evaluating, judging, introducing moments of doubt, and undermining your confidence to be, to try, to experiment, to explore, and see what happens.
I feel like the mind is a child that needs to be scolded sometimes, “No! That’s not very nice and you should say those types of things about me!” It’s constantly trying to push the boundaries and take over, but a gentle spanking can put it in it’s place. It doesn’t have to rule my life. I can overcome my mind.
All of this feels like I’m being able to tap into a deeper truth which allows for a much more natural flow to life and see beyond the fabrications of my mind.
Has anyone else made this distinction?September 13, 2013 at 7:57 am #42182
I really like the way you’re noticing the discursive or automatic quality of mind, and how monkey like it can be. It doesn’t seem like a spanking is necessary though, kids don’t like to be hit… neither does John’s mind. After all, how are your thoughts not you? Said differently, there is spaciousness of mind, and then there are streamers bursting into the space. There is the basic stability, and the ripples. They’re both part of what is.
Perhaps you could do something different with the chatter. “Oh, chatter” and don’t become harsh with yourself. Be gentle. The chatter comes from karma, or previous impressions (spankings, judgments, assumptions, selfishness etc) that untangle when we let them. Criticizing the mind is like trying to cover something that is really there.
For instance, if you poop in the bathroom and notice the smell, it might seem to make sense to spray a can of air freshener. Usually, however, the bathroom just smells like poopy flowers (I remember this joke from a stand up routine from somewhere). Instead, if we turn the fan on (just breathe, don’t give significance to our thoughts as “positive” or “negative”) then the smell dissipates rather easily.
Otherwise, each time we go into the bathroom and notice the smell, we spray another layer on top of the old, until we are so confused about what a bathroom smells like that we don’t even know what to look for. Said differently, spanking the mind for its monkey chatter is just another layer of chatter.
In practical terms, say we see a beautiful person and want to ask them out for coffee. The mind says “they will never agree, you are no good, you don’t have the courage” and we notice “chatter” and go up and ask them to coffee. We don’t act from the fantasy the mind paints, but we don’t need to do anything with it. Its just chatter, like ringing in the ears.
MattSeptember 13, 2013 at 10:27 am #42187
I agree about the not spanking or being too harsh, but at the same time, some of the Buddhist literature I read talks about educating your childish mind, setting clear boundaries, giving it instructions, and not just letting it run wild.
I personally find it it helps to try to set it straight when it tries to play it’s old tricks and brings about doubt, neurosis start to arise, or cocky ego kicks in by calling it out as unproductive, harmful, unloving, or mean.
Here’s an article that describes the teaching that I’m trying to take to heart:
Is it better to be a passive observant of the mind’s chatter or trying to actively try to point out how silly of a monkey it’s trying to be? I would think as a child or wild animal, it needs some gentle instruction and to be tamed.
September 13, 2013 at 1:45 pm #42198
- This reply was modified 10 years, 3 months ago by John.
I read through the instructions Ajahn Brahmavamso is describing, and don’t see the portion where pushing against the mental chattering is advised. At the directness of mental awareness you’re describing, there is really no need to do such a thing.
Imagine the mind as a mare in a tiny barn, and the mare is unsettled… kicking and bucking. As it bashes up against the walls of the barn, it becomes scratched. The more scratches, the more kicking. The more kicking, the more scratches. Why would we stand at the door of the barn and chide the poor animal for being an animal? Why would we say it is mean? That it doesn’t love itself enough, or respect the barn enough? That isn’t compassion. The horse doesn’t need to be tamed, it needs to be free. We don’t try to whip it into shape, we remove the barn. Then the mare will perhaps go nibble some grass or smell a flower… the scratches and kicking naturally go away.
Removing the barn is done through the gentle moving of our mind back to our intention. In Brahmavamso’s instructions, this is done in stages. Present moment, breath, full breath and so forth. The intention never arises as “chiding the chatterer”… rather “what the mental energy is intended to do”.
What do you think? The mind is not the thoughts… it is the container the thoughts bounce around in.
MattSeptember 13, 2013 at 3:13 pm #42202
The following paragraph jumped out at me as the indicator that an unruly mind does not simply require a passive observer, but rather a skillful gatekeeper and some instruction should be given.
“A wise gatekeeper knows that mindfulness is more than bare attention. A wise gatekeeper has to remember the instructions and perform them with diligence. If he sees a thief trying to break in then he must stop the burglar, or else call in the police. In the same way, a wise meditator must do more than just give bare attention to whatever comes in and goes out of the mind. The wise meditator must remember the instructions and act on them with diligence.”
This also reminded my Sakyong Mipham’s metaphor of the mind as a horse and meditation as a practice that helps you tame the horse and keep it on a straight path.
But I can see what you’re saying about not chastising the animal and blaming it for it’s innate reactions, but to meet it with compassion and love.
So often throughout my day I see thoughts arising of greed, anger, jealousy, guilt, judgement, and criticism sometimes directed at others, but mostly at myself. It’s getting a bit annoying.
I want to remain open, calm, peaceful, compassionate, to give love freely, fully, and openly to world, and to receive love freely, fully, and open from the world, but my mind is constantly putting up barriers and trying to undermine my confidence, “What if….ummm…but…..however…….what about…..but when…….”
While removing the barn is one approach and letting the mind run wild, I’m wondering if my mind could benefit from some direct talking to. If I were to meet a mare bucking in a barn hurting itself, I wouldn’t remove the barn, I would instead try to calm the mare and let it feel safe and secure.
September 13, 2013 at 5:51 pm #42207
- This reply was modified 10 years, 3 months ago by John.
I can understand why you might want to approach the mare to calm her. My teacher said it was not the way, because when we get close, the mare kicks us and then we and the mare are unsettled. It may seem like touching the mare would calm her, and that if the barn walls were gone the mare would just run wild. This based on a false assumption that the mind is wild. The mare does not kick and buck for no reason, such that if we remove the walls it would remain unsettled.
Look close at the words you quoted and perhaps what you’ll see is that we do not just pay attention and let the thoughts run. Rather we give them space and they settle on their own. Said differently, the wise gatekeeper does notice the thoughts and moves the mental energy from the thought back to the meditation intention. Your strategy still seems like it is throwing rocks at a pond to silence its ripples. Judging the thoughts in your mind to try stop your mind from judging. Don’t you see the silliness there? Its second arrow stuff… “what if… notice… now here this monkey mind” still no peace, no space. Mipham’s training the mare does not equate to thought pop-a-mole.
Your mileage may vary of course. Namaste.
MattSeptember 13, 2013 at 8:22 pm #42210
Thanks Matt. I’ll take your words to heart and not react to my thoughts, but simply give them space to diffuse.
Cultivating patience with ones practice is difficult and I look forward to the day when I’m free of these gremlins that prevent me from living life to it’s fullest potential. I can almost taste it; no doubt, no confusion, no uncertainty, no second guessing, no self-criticism, no rehashing, no replaying of the days events, what was said, what was not said, what was done, what was not done…that would be freedom! 🙂September 13, 2013 at 8:27 pm #42211
Do you do metta as well as breath meditation? Perhaps there is extra agitation that would be settled from some additional metta practice. Better than chicken soup!
MattSeptember 14, 2013 at 5:47 am #42224
I’ve noticed you recommending metta meditation to many people on this forum and it has peaked my interest. I’m looking forward to trying it.